Arlington police arrest 1st suspect in anti-gay hate crime; 4 others expected to turn themselves in

Daniel Sibley

Arlington police have arrested one teenager and expect four more to turn themselves in after video footage identified them as suspects in a vandalism spree June 10 that included anti-gay slurs spray-painted on a lesbian couple’s SUV.

Sgt. Christopher Cook said Wednesday during a press conference that Fort Worth teen Daniel Sibley, 18, was arrested Tuesday. He is in custody on a $2,500 bond.

Cook explained that two surveillance cameras on residences captured several teens spray-painting derogatory images and words on homes and cars in a total of 13 incidents. The second video captured the vehicle information and led to the identification of five teens ages 16-18.

Cook said the two other adults have attorneys and will be booked into jail Wednesday afternoon. A female juvenile is also expected to turn herself in. Police are still trying to contact a female adult.

All suspects will be charged with the state jail felony of criminal mischief for damage ranging from $1,500-$20,000.

The punishment for a state jail felony is 180 days to two years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine. If the classification is enhanced by the hate crime statute to a third-degree felony, the teens could face two to 10 years behind bars in addition to the fine.

A racial slur was spray-painted on a vehicle, but Cook said it not being reported as a hate crime because the man who owned the car was Caucasian. He said based on the statement from Sibley that the teens saw a sticker on the lesbian couple’s SUV – which featured two female caricatures with a child and pet – and made an assumption that they were gay before vandalizing the vehicle.

Arlington police Chief Will Johnson

Acting police chief Will Johnson said it was clear that the incident involving the lesbian couple was hate crime from early on because the words “queers” and “faggot” were spray-painted on their SUV.

“A crime of hatred is not only a crime against an individual but it is a crime against the community,” he said. “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.”

He said the incident would be reported to the FBI as a hate crime and that authorities would continue to investigate and prosecute hate crimes in Arlington in the future.

“We are committed in Arlington to prevent all crime especially crime that was committed for no other reason than possibly toward hatred,” Johnson said. “This type of behavior will not be tolerated, it will be fully investigated — and to the fullest extent of the law prosecuted.”

Kim Lovering said she and her partner were woken up by police early Sunday morning, June 10. Neighbors had already called police but she said her family was unaware of the vandalism to their SUV. She said she was grateful her son, not yet 2, was too young to understand what happened.

From the police presence to Johnson calling her later that day to check on her family, Lovering said she was impressed by the support from the community and police.

“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.”

As for the arrest and suspected capture of the remaining suspects, she said it will help her sleep at night and hopes the teens’ arrests will change their attitudes.

“I’m so thankful for the way this turned out just for our safety and peace of mind,” she said.

Fairness Fort Worth President Tom Anable praised the police response, calling it a “textbook” example of how police should respond and engage with the community.

Anable said anti-gay slurs are “so offensive and dehumanizing” and “will never go away,” adding that the quick identification and arrest of suspects send the message that hate crimes won’t be tolerated anymore.

“It’s nothing new for us. What is new is having a dialogue with law enforcement and the FBI,” he said. “I can’t say enough about how well the Arlington Police Department handled this. … It is absolutely textbook perfect.”

Anable said his organization has reached out to the Human Rights Campaign to try to bring national attention to “how things can go right.”

“The citizens of Arlington should take great pride in their police department and the quality of their city,” he said.

HRC released a statement Wednesday applauding Arlington PD for “responding swiftly and thoroughly.”

The full HRC statement is below, along with video from the press conference.

—  Anna Waugh

Arlington police now calling vandalism of lesbian couple’s SUV an anti-gay hate crime

Our Anna Waugh is headed to Arlington this morning, where police reportedly will hold a press conference to announce they’ve identified five suspects in a string of 10 incidents of vandalism that occurred Sunday, June 10. As we’ve reported, the incidents included one in which the words “FAGGOT” and “QUEERS” were spray-painted on the SUV of a lesbian couple, which led Instant Tea to ask whether it was being treated as an anti-gay hate crime. Ten days later, the answer is yes, as police say they believe “that some victims were targeted based upon their sexual orientation and, as such, this incident will be reported on the Uniform Crime Report as a hate crime based upon prejudice and bias that we believe existed when the offenses were committed.” Tom Anable, president of the LGBT advocacy group Fairness Fort Worth, is also slated to speak at the presser. We’ll have a full report later, but for now here’s what APD is saying:

The Arlington Police Department was alerted to several graffiti offenses on Sunday, June 10, 2012, that targeted a West Arlington neighborhood. These offenses generated media attention and concerned law enforcement officials.

A press conference will be held Wednesday, June 20, 2012, at 10 a.m. at Arlington Police Headquarters at 620 W. Division Street in the Police Office of Communication. The conference will address the criminal episode that occurred along with investigative process which led to the identification of five suspects.

Acting Police Chief Will Johnson will speak about the police response to the hostile messages left in an Arlington neighborhood and describe how the investigation progressed so quickly, including the community outreach efforts that helped bring this investigation to its proper conclusion. The Arlington Police Department believes that some victims were targeted based upon their sexual orientation and, as such, this incident will be reported on the Uniform Crime Report as a hate crime based upon prejudice and bias that we believe existed when the offenses were committed.

The President of Fairness Fort Worth, Thomas R. Anable, will also be in attendance at the press conference to speak briefly about the dialogue that occurred between the Arlington Police Department and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

—  John Wright