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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

MPD arrests five teenagers for February vandalism, anti-Semitic messaging

Police arrested five Madison teenagers for multiple acts of vandalism committed in the city’s West District two months ago, according to a Madison Police Department statement released Wednesday.

The “crime spree” resulted in more than $30,000 in damage to 45 properties, including private homes, mailboxes and vehicles, according to the release. The Feb. 14 vandalism primarily took the form of splattered paint balls and spray painted messaging, with seven of the cases incorporating anti-Semitic words and images.

These derogatory sentiments will not be treated as a “hate crime” because they were not targeted at members of a statutory protected class, MPD Public Information Officer Joel DeSpain wrote in the release.

“Given the fact that they galvanized an entire community, they are going to have to reap what they sow,” MPD Chief Mike Koval said in a press conference Wednesday. “We are at least pleased we can put some closure and the community can rest assured that this was not owing to some sort of abiding sense of conspiratorial anti-Semitism or anti-racial issues, but in fact was just impulsive and just truly stupid behavior.”

The remainder of cases comprised of broken mailboxes, car windows and depictions of crude words and visuals, including drawn body parts, according to the release.

MPD tentatively charged the perpetrators with felonies for criminal damage to property. Two have also been charged with tentative burglary charges for stealing a fire extinguisher used to cause damage that night. All five offenders are 17 or 18 years old and will be tried as adults.

Koval said MPD has kept the city’s Jewish community informed throughout the investigation.

“We appreciate and commend the work of the Madison Police Department and their diligence, concern and effectiveness to identify and apprehend those responsible in this case,” wrote Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Madison Dina Weinbach.

The chief said the Feb. 14 incident is not related to damage caused to a synagogue by an unknown suspect early Saturday morning.

Michael Frett contributed to this report.

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