Police Make First Arrest in Texas Vandalism Spree
Police in Arlington, Texas, have arrested one suspect in a vandalism spree with an antigay component, and they expect to bring in four more.
Daniel Sibley, 18, of Fort Worth was arrested Tuesday in connection with the June 10 spree, which consisted of 13 instances of “derogatory images and words” being spray-painted on homes and cars in Arlington, a suburb of Dallas–Fort Worth, the Dallas Voice reports. The words “queers” and “faggot” were painted on a lesbian couple’s SUV; the vehicle bore a sticker with figures of two women, a child, and a pet, so the vandals apparently assumed it belonged to a same-sex couple.
Video surveillance cameras at two homes caught teenagers spray-painting the houses and cars, said Arlington police sergeant Christopher Cook at a press conference this morning. He said two other adults would be booked in connection with the crime this afternoon, and he expected a female juvenile to turn herself in. Police were still trying to contact one other adult suspect.
Cook said Sibley and the other suspects will be charged with criminal mischief causing damage ranging from $1,500 to $20,000 in value, a felony that carries a penalty of 180 days to two years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine. If a hate-crime enhancement is added to the charge, the jail term will be two to 10 years. Acting police chief Will Johnson said it is clear to him that the incident involving the lesbian couple was a hate crime, and police are recommending that the local district attorney prosecute it as such. They are also reporting it to the FBI.
“A crime of hatred is not only a crime against an individual, but it is a crime against the community,” Johnson said, according to the Voice. “Early in this investigation it was clear that hateful and biased language was used to damage property at multiple locations. It was equally clear that at least one of our 13 victims was targeted specifically because of their sexual orientation.”
One member of the lesbian couple, Kim Lovering, expressed gratitude for the quick response by police and neighbors. “They stood behind us,” she said. “It was really a huge relief that something like this was handled the right way. And I’m glad it’s our city.”
National and local LGBT rights groups also praised the response. “This is a shining example of law enforcement officials doing the right thing, and working diligently to ensure all members of the community they serve feel safe and protected,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin, while Fairness Fort Worth president Tom Anable said the handling of the case was “absolutely textbook perfect.”