APD Identifies Suspects in Hate Graffiti Crimes
By Office of Communication
Posted on June 20, 2012, June 20, 2012

On Sunday, June 10, 2012, at approximately 6 a.m., the Arlington Police Department was notified of several graffiti offenses that occurred earlier in the morning in a West Arlington neighborhood. Officers quickly began notifying residents that cars, garage doors, and other personal property were spray painted in the neighborhood. The graffiti ranged from spray painted lines to racial slurs, hateful messages and vulgar, derogatory images.

While some victims appeared to have been targeted based upon opportunistic reasons, others appeared to have been intentionally selected based upon bias and prejudice related to sexual orientation. This caused immediate alarm at APD. "Anytime there is an appearance that a member of our community is targeted for criminal activity based upon their race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, this causes immediate concern," said Sgt. Christopher Cook assigned to the media office. "APD has given this investigation a top-priority, even to the point that we altered officer's schedules to quickly identify those responsible and properly refer them to the District Attorney for prosecution," said Cook regarding how the case has progressed.

Throughout the early stages of the investigation, West District criminal investigators believed the offenses occurred between 2 a.m. and the early morning hours on that Sunday morning. Photographs were taken of the graffiti to be used later as evidence against those responsible for this criminal episode. Detectives went door to door speaking with citizens to gather additional details that would lead APD to find those responsible for such a heinous act. As detectives and officers canvassed the area searching for clues, they were able to locate surveillance video footage from a homeowner that actually showed the suspects committing some of the criminal offenses. Sgt. Kyle Dishko who oversees the West District Criminal Investigation Unit said, "The video surveillance was excellent quality and was key to breaking this case and leading to the identity of the suspects."

On Monday, June 11, Sgt. Dishko's group was able to take the video footage and partnered with APD's Economic Crimes Unit to convert the footage to a watchable file and create still photos from the video that was used later to help identify the suspects. The still photos were passed out on Monday to APD's School Resource Unit. Officers assigned inside schools reviewed the photographs to assist in the investigation in an attempt to identify the suspects.

Also on Monday, detectives received another break in the case when a second home surveillance system captured an image of the suspect vehicle. This was another critical piece in building the case and establishing the criminal nexus link between the suspects and the time frame when the offenses occurred. "These videos were really the catalyst in solving this criminal episode so quickly," said Sgt. Dishko.

On Tuesday, June 12, officers and detectives began a full canvass on the entire neighborhood area and schools that were nearby but not necessarily located in the Arlington Independent School District. With still photos in hand, detectives contacted some residents who identified some of the suspects. By night fall, two of the suspects in this case were at Arlington Police headquarters and discussing their involvement with detectives.

After completing the investigation, APD was able to identify a total of thirteen victims from this criminal episode. As detectives continued to build their case, a total of 5 suspects were eventually identified with four suspects being identified as adults and one suspect being identified as a juvenile. All suspects will be charged with Graffiti $1,500-$20,000 dollars which is a state jail felony in Texas.

Investigators have been communicating with the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office throughout this investigative process. Prosecutors will be asked to examine whether or not this offense qualifies as a hate crime under Texas statutes based upon the apparent bias and prejudice exhibited against one of the victims in this case. If prosecution under this legislation is allowed, the case can be enhanced to a third degree felony by the judge during the punishment phase. This crime will also be reported as a hate crime to the Federal Bureau of Investigation through the Uniform Crime Reporting process. What makes this case complicated is the fact that APD identified thirteen victims and aggregated the total dollar amounts of the offenses to file the most serious charge.

"We want to send a strong message to the community that this type of behavior will not be tolerated and we respond to these types of incidents very seriously," said Acting Police Chief Will Johnson. Throughout this investigation, communication and dialogue with the community and the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office was critical as the investigation progressed from the initial stages to the final culmination of the warrants being issued.

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