Sheriff to push for hate crime charges in Calabasas anti-semitic graffiti case

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The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will push for hate crime enhancements to felony charges of vandalism expected to be filed soon against three Calabasas High School students, an official from the Sheriff’s Department said Thursday.

The three 11th graders confessed to investigators on Tuesday to defacing their school late Friday night with extensive anti-Semitic and racist graffiti. The three students, all of whom have been described as “4.0 students” have not been named because they are minors.

The three were arrested Wednesday morning and released to their parents’ custody.

“We are going to file felony vandalism charges, with a hate crime enhancement,” Capt. Joe Stephen of the Malibu/Lost Hills Station said. The Sheriff’s Department investigation has not yet been completed, and the ultimate decision about whether to charge the students with a hate crime will be made by a Los Angeles County District Attorney.

Initial reports had said that the sheriff’s department would not pursue hate crime charges, but Stephen denied that the more severe designation had ever been off the table.

“Obviously those symbols and signs are despicable and shouldn’t be tolerated by anyone,” Stephen said of the graffiti, which included numerous swastikas, a spray-painted portrait of Hitler and the words “Whites Only” scrawled above a water fountain. “The Sheriff’s Department fully understands the magnitude and historical significance of those markings.”

In addition to any criminal prosecution, the students will face disciplinary action by administrators and school district officials.

Police say Calabasas High students were behind anti-Semitic graffiti

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Investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have identified three students at Calabasas High School as the alleged vandals behind extensive anti-Semitic graffiti found on school property on Saturday morning, April 23, a spokesperson from the Sheriff’s Department said Tuesday afternoon. The students have not yet been charged, and the case will be presented to a district attorney on Friday, according to Sgt. Mike Holland of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

Names of the students to be charged will be released mid-day on Wed. April 27, Holland said.

The graffiti, which was removed before the start of school on Monday, included numerous swastikas on lockers, walls and pavement, and a spray-painted portrait of Hitler. News reports said that the graffiti also targeted groups other than Jews, including blacks and Latinos.

The scrawlings included the names of seven Calabasas High School students and two teachers at the school. All of the students targeted by the vandals are members of the school’s 11th grade class, and most, though not all, are Jewish.

This is not the first such incident at the school; in January 2010 a student who is Jewish found a swastika carved into the hood of his car. No one was charged for the incident. At that time, the school’s principal, C.J. Foss, suggested that it was a personal attack by one student against another.

Police did not release the names of the three students alleged to be behind the graffiti, but said they are also members of the 11th grade class at the high school.

“They’re all 4.0 students, on both sides,” Holland said.

Since the incident, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department has interviewed more than 100 students, including those named in the graffiti and the suspects. Holland said that the three alleged vandals told investigators that they had been mistreated by their fellow students at the school, and specifically by the seven students whose names were found spray-painted on the school’s walls.

Holland said the three students told investigators that they believed the students named in the markings are Jewish.

Calabasas High School is a California Distinguished School and a National Blue Ribbon School. The student body has a large Jewish population.

Holland said the Sheriff’s Department will search the home of one of the three students on April 27. When the case is presented on Fri. April 29, the district attorney will decide whether to charge the students with criminal vandalism or a hate crime. All of them are minors, and none have prior criminal records.

Holland said that there is evidence suggesting that the suspects have indeed been “picked on” by other students over the course of the school year.

“It’s not as black and white as people think,” he said.

“These kids will be prosecuted for it, because their actions were illegal,” Holland said.

Students at the school have begun to receive tolerance training by a sherriff’s department program in the aftermath of the incident.


Three students arrested for anti-Semitic graffiti at Calabasas High School