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Fort Smith vandalism weighed as hate crime

by Thomas Saccente | September 13, 2019 at 3:18 a.m.

Police in Fort Smith say officers are investigating an act of vandalism as a possible hate crime.

Authorities were notified shortly before 7:30 a.m. Thursday of criminal mischief in the 8500 block of South 32nd Terrace, police spokesman Aric Mitchell said in a news release.

A resident woke up to find "racially-charged and insensitive language" spray-painted on the victim's car and garage, as well as a friend's vehicle, according to the news release. The tires on one vehicle had been slashed.

At the residence, police spoke to Amber Henderson, Henderson's roommate Shelby Furr and their friend Sabrina Bray. The incident took place between 9 p.m. Wednesday and 7:20 a.m. Thursday. The report stated that Henderson and Furr are white, and their children are biracial. Bray was listed in the report as a black woman. She and her son had spent the night at the residence.

A racial slur was written in orange spray paint on the passenger side of a maroon 2007 Chevrolet Silverado that Bray had borrowed from a friend.

A gray 2013 Ford Fusion, which Henderson had borrowed from a family member, had a racial slur painted on the top of the vehicle, "die" on the back glass, "move" on the front glass, "white power SS" on the front hood, and racial slurs on the passenger side doors.

The two front tires had been cut with a knife or a box cutter, and there appeared to be sugar or salt left around the gas cap, police said. No damage amount was listed for the two vehicles.

Police found another racial slur painted on one of the walls of the garage, causing $50 in damage. Henderson, who reported having lived at the residence for only a week before this happened, said the garage door had been left open overnight. Police listed a red push lawn mower as stolen.

Mitchell said the incident was referred to the FBI for consideration as a hate crime under federal law.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-D.C.-based Muslim civil-rights and advocacy organization, issued a statement Thursday condemning the vandalism. National communications coordinator Ayan Ajeen said the organization urged law enforcement authorities and public officials to "take this act of intimidation seriously."

"The racism and white supremacy promoted at the highest levels of our society is increasingly having an impact on ordinary Americans," Ajeen said.

Fort Smith had attracted national attention after a mosque in the city was vandalized in October 2016.

A New York Times article dated Aug. 26, 2017, reported that messages spray-painted on the Al Salam mosque included "Go Home" and "We Don't Want You Here U.S.A.", as well as swastikas. The incident prompted an outpouring of support for the mosque by people from a variety of religious backgrounds not just in Fort Smith but across the country.

State Desk on 09/13/2019

Print Headline: Fort Smith vandalism weighed as hate crime

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