Synagogue graffiti suspect, 17, arrested for third time in 3 days

Vandals struck both the Beth Israel and Beth Abraham Synagogues on York Street in Bangor sometime early Friday night by spray painting offensive symbols and graffiti on the pillars and staircases of both buildings.
Andrew Neff | BDN
Vandals struck both the Beth Israel and Beth Abraham Synagogues on York Street in Bangor sometime early Friday night by spray painting offensive symbols and graffiti on the pillars and staircases of both buildings.
By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff
Posted Sept. 27, 2012, at 4:50 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — One of the three local teenage boys arrested earlier this week in connection with graffiti vandalism at two York Street synagogues and several downtown locations was arrested again Thursday afternoon, this time for stealing paint markers from a hardware store, according to Bangor police.

It was the third arrest for the 17-year-old Bangor teen in three days, Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said Thursday afternoon. His name was withheld because of his age.

The boy to whom Edwards was referring initially was arrested Tuesday and charged with felony aggravated criminal mischief.

He was arrested again Wednesday for allegedly tagging a stop sign. At that time, he was charged with criminal mischief, according to police.

On Thursday, the same teenager was arrested again on a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge, Edwards said.

“Today, shortly after 2 p.m., this same youth came to the attention of members of the police department’s Special Enforcement Team (SET),” Edwards said in a news release issued Thursday afternoon.

“SET officers observed the boy walk into a local hardware store and after several minutes, leave seemingly without making a purchase,” he said.

Edwards said the officers followed the boy to his residence and searched him, consistent with conditional release rules he must abide by.

“The officers found several paint markers that appeared new. [The teen] was arrested for violating his conditional release — which is not to possess paint — and after further investigation SET officers went back to the hardware store and confirmed through video surveillance that he concealed the markers and left the store without purchasing them.”

The boy was arrested on charges of misdemeanor theft and violating his conditional release order, Edwards said. He said the youth initially was taken to Penobscot County Jail and that arrangements were being made to transport him to Mountain View Youth Development in Charleston.

According to Edwards, the teenager caught with paint markers Thursday was one of three 17-year-old boys — two from Bangor and one from Orrington — arrested Tuesday for spray painting swastikas and other graffiti on two synagogues on York Street.

The two Bangor teens were charged with felony aggravated criminal mischief, while the Orrington boy was charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief/vandalism, Edwards said in a press release.

Edwards said earlier this week that the three boys were “mostly cooperative” with the detective who interviewed them and as a result, many of the department’s open cases of graffiti will be cleared.

The teens were not identified because they are juveniles. Edwards said none of them have records. Edwards did not reveal any motive for the vandalism of the synagogues. The graffiti was applied Friday night to the steps and pillars of Congregation Beth Israel and Beth Abraham Synagogue on York Street while people were inside at least one of the buildings.

The synagogue graffiti included Nazi swastikas — an anti-Semitic symbol — and an upside-down cross with the numbers “666″ — known as a sign of the devil — placed across the top.

The vandalism happened during the Jewish High Holy Days, a 10-day period of prayer that starts with Rosh Hashanah — the first day of the Jewish year and anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve — and ends with Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year.

The incident was condemned by members of the local Jewish community as well as the New England chapter of the Anti-Defamation League. Also speaking out against the swastika graffiti were the Maine Council of Churches, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.

The case will be sent to the Maine attorney general’s office for review to see whether the offense is deemed a hate crime under state law covering the desecration and defacement of places of worship, according to Edwards.

On Thursday, Bangor city councilors said they were pleased with the recent investigation that led to the arrest of several local juveniles, including those charged with spraying swastikas on the synagogues.

“The graffiti has been the subject of recent discussions by the City Council and the arrests were the direct result of dedicated police staffing to catch the perpetrators,” Chairman Cary Weston said in a statement on behalf of the entire council.

“As a community we are deeply saddened by the attack on our Jewish neighbors and we will continue to make catching the perpetrators a high priority,” Weston said.

“The council is united on working with the criminal justice system to ensure that the youth are dealt with decisively and that the punishment includes substantial community service,” he said.

Also Thursday, the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine applauded Bangor police for their “serious and decisive investigation and arrests of the individuals allegedly responsible for spray painting swastikas on two synagogues in Bangor.”

“Whether the intention of the offensive symbols was hate-motivated or simple vandalism — the [Bangor Police Department] has made it clear that these destructive and outrageous acts will not be tolerated,” the alliance’s statement said.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/09/27/news/bangor/synagogue-graffiti-suspect-17-arrested-for-third-time-in-3-days/ printed on August 1, 2014