Suspect Could Face Hate Crime Charges for Racist Graffiti in North Texas
|thenorthstar||Sep 1, 2019|
Police in Texas have arrested a man who defaced two buildings with swastikas and racial slurs.
Authorities claim the case will be presented to the district attorney as a hate crime.
Officials in East Arlington, Texas said swastikas and hateful words were spray-painted on two buildings, The Dallas Morning News reported. Officials received the first vandalism report around 3 a.m. on August 27 regarding an old CVS building located in the 1800 block of East Arkansas Lane, Arlington Police Department spokesperson Jesse Minton told the publication. The second call involved a car wash just a block away.
Police took photos of the hateful messages before cleaning both buildings, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. Some of the messages read the f-word and anti-Black racial slurs, CBS DFW reported. The word “liar” was also repeatedly painted onto the two buildings, according to the news station.
Will Johnson, police chief for the Arlington Police Department, tweeted that the community will not tolerate hate crimes.
“This morning our community was targeted for a hate crime in East Arlington. Racial slurs were painted on a building [and] car wash. We will not tolerate hate crimes,” Johnson wrote on August 27. “We will vigorously investigate [and] seek criminal prosecution. Arlington stands for the protection of all people.”
On August 29, 34-year-old Edward Daniel Gutierrez was taken into police custody and charged with graffiti, according to The Dallas Morning News. Arlington police said the suspect admitted to the hate-speech vandalism, but they were still working to determine motive. The case will be presented to the Tarrant County district attorney as a hate crime. Minton told The Dallas Morning News that the crimes did not appear to be linked to any known group and said they were "out of the blue."
“It’s really a message from a racist individual, to an entire group of people,” Johnson told CBS DFW.
“We absolutely have to show intolerance to those type of crimes, because we don’t want to project any instance where somebody believes this might be accepted, some accepted form of behavior.”
During the same week, an African American employee’s office at the Department of Education was vandalized in Washington, DC. The incident occurred at the department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education in the office of a Black woman who was just appointed a “diversity change agent,” NBC News reported. The employee reported the incident on August 20.
“We can confirm there was an incident involving an employee’s personal belongings on the third floor,” Education Department spokesperson Angela Morabito said in a previous statement to The North Star. “Secretary DeVos took immediate action, including referring the case to Federal Protective Services for a comprehensive investigation, increasing building security, and most importantly, ensuring the impacted employee was supported.”
“The diversity change agent program at the Department trains employees involved in the program to foster a more inclusive workplace, and Secretary DeVos has strengthened it since taking office to ensure a strong culture of inclusion at the Department,” Morabito continued.
Employees at the department and a congressional aide told NBC News that African art figurines were beheaded, dismembered, and left in the office. A poster of Ruby Bridges, a civil rights activist, was also damaged.
In May, the Austin chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on authorities to investigate after signs for a community iftar were vandalized with anti-Muslim remarks. The community organization Muslim Space was hosting its second annual iftar on May 25 at the Colony Amenity Center in Bastrop, Texas when organizers found the defaced signs.
“It is truly unfortunate that while inside, Muslim Space created an inclusive opportunity for a community to come together in solidarity, and outside, at least one person chose to act out of hate,” CAIR-Austin Executive Director Maira Sheikh said in a previous statement.
“It is disturbing to consider that Islamophobes have become so emboldened as to vandalize a sign outside an event because they see the word ‘Muslim.’ We urge law enforcement to treat this as a possible hate crime and to step up efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Sheikh continued.
Muslim Space Executive Director Shadia Igram said in a joint statement with CAIR-Austin that the incident was “an expression of misguided information and ignorance.”
“Muslim Space strives to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all in our community and we extend an invitation to anyone who wishes to learn more about Islam or the work we do,” Igram previously said. “Muslims have the right to peacefully live their lives in the open, free of threats, and we truly appreciate the overwhelming support of our countless friends and allies.”
About the Author
Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.