ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – It was less than two weeks ago that police received reports of more than a dozen incidents of anti-gay graffiti spray-painted in one west Arlington neighborhood. Today officials announced that one suspect is in custody and they have identified four others. All of the suspects are teenagers, ranging in age from 16 to 18 years old.
One suspect, 18-year-old Daniel Sibley of Arlington, was arrested Tuesday afternoon.
The vandalism was extensive with graffiti painted on vehicles, garage doors and other property.
Acting Arlington police Chief Will Johnson said security video, showing the suspects in the act of spray painting vulgar messages on cars and houses, was critical to the investigation.
“Clearly, without that video evidence it would have been much more difficult for us to bring this case forward to seek justice,” he said.
Police say while there were several victims in the case they believe one victim, as lesbian woman, was intentionally targeted because of her sexual orientation.
Police believe the vandals spotted a sticker on a car window that showed symbols of two moms, a child, and a dog.
“There’s an identifying sticker that you could associate with that type of sexual orientation and so we believe that once they saw that identifying mark that is what prompted, in our belief, them to spray paint these hateful messages,” Arlington police Sergeant Christopher Cook said during a press conference.
Police say they will list the incident as a hate crime in the Uniform Crime Report sent to the FBI and prosecutors will be left to determine whether or not the case should be prosecuted as such, according to Texas law.
“We are committed in Arlington to prevent all crime especially crime that was committed for no other reason than possibly toward hatred,” said Chief Johnson. “We want to send a strong message to the community that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”
Thomas Anable, president of the non-profit activist group Fairness Fort Worth, is commending Arlington police for their work on the case.
“I can’t say enough about how well the Arlington Police Department handled this. It is absolutely textbook perfect,” he said.
Early Wednesday the Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – also applauded Arlington police for “responding swiftly and thoroughly.”
The four other suspects in the case are expected to be taken into custody soon. All of the suspects will be charged with Graffiti between $1,500-$20,000, a crime that is a felony in Texas.
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