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Arrest made in swastika graffiti case

Arrest made in swastika graffiti case

13-year-old boy charged with spray-paint spree
Arrest made in swastika graffiti case
Swastika graffiti covered by "Love not Hate" is seen Jan. 2 on Esperance Presbyterian Church in the village of Esperance
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

ESPERANCE -- State police have arrested a 13-year-old boy in connection with the swastika graffiti spree that shocked the village of Esperance this week.

Police made the arrest Thursday after a days-long investigation into vandalism that was discovered New Year’s Day.

State police charged the boy in juvenile court with 10 counts of making graffiti and one count of third-degree burglary. Police did not release his name, due to his age.

As to why the vandalism featured the swastika, state police said they believe the boy did not act out of hatred. 

“Based on evidence and interviews, investigators determined that the juvenile acted alone and did not target a specific person or group because of any perception or bias,” police said in a prepared statement. “The juvenile was familiar with the symbol through video games and chose it because it was easy to draw.”

Investigators determined the boy illegally entered the basement of one building, where more graffiti was discovered. The basement vandalism prompted the burglary count, police said.

The boy is to appear in Schoharie County Family Court at a later date.

The investigation began Sunday morning, as village residents awoke to find multiple swastikas spray-painted on several buildings and signs.

Among the buildings damaged was the historic Esperance Presbyterian Church. Built of a porous sandstone, Pastor Bert Mayne has said the graffiti will be difficult to remove. In the meantime, someone blocked much of the symbol with a poster stating, “LOVE NOT HATE.”

Told of Friday’s arrest, Mayne called the resolution good news, but he also expressed sadness at the identity of the alleged perpetrator.

At 13 years old, Mayne suggested the boy hasn’t had enough history lessons to understand exactly what the symbol means.

“It’s just sad,” Mayne said. “Kids need more guidance than that. It’s one of those things that I think is symptomatic of the age.”

It’s an age of materialism — lower spiritual connection, he said. And with that, come more shallow acts, he said.

Mayne has led the small church since 1981. He also leads another church in Carlisle. 

Church officials have been consulting with a contractor already doing work on the church’s sanctuary to get the graffiti removed. The cold weather and its effects on the spray paint has helped extend the window for removing it, Mayne said.

As for his congregation, Mayne said, they’ve all responded similarly.

“Everyone in the church’s response has just been how sad it is that a kid would do something like that,” he said.

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