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.
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.
Texas Law Enforcement Officials Recommend Suspects in Anti-LGB Vandalism Be Charged With Hate Crime
Arlington PD acts swiftly following vandalism targeting same-sex family
Washington – The Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – is applauding the Arlington, Texas, Police Department for responding swiftly and thoroughly to vandalism attacks that appear to have targeted one family based on the parents’ sexual orientation. The Arlington Police Department (APD) is announcing the arrest of five suspects in the attacks this morning and is recommending the District Attorney prosecute them under the state’s hate crimes law.
On the night of June 9, the suspects allegedly damaged 13 properties in an Arlington neighborhood. One of those was the home of a family headed by a same-sex couple. The back of the couple’s car included a sticker of two moms, a child, and a dog. The suspects spray-painted “faggot” and “queers” in large letters over the back of the vehicle. View the photo taken by one of the residents.
It is the correlation between the bumper sticker and the anti-LGBT slurs that police say indicates a hate crime. Texas law prohibits hate crimes based on sexual orientation but not gender identity. It includes property crimes as well as violent crimes. HRC President Chad Griffin released the following statement:
“It’s commendable that the Arlington PD responded to this crime so quickly and thoroughly, and that they are not turning a blind eye to the anti-LGB factors involved – in fact quite the opposite. 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. Too often, we hear stories of those entrusted to represent and protect us not acting when LGBT people are victimized. It’s particularly important to commend the APD’s actions so others can see that inaction is never an option. Today’s arrests should send a message to LGB people – particularly youth who may feel isolated – that there are people in their communities who will work to help and protect them.”
HRC compliments the leadership of Fairness Fort Worth for their pro-active efforts on behalf of the victims of these horrible crimes. HRC continues to advocate for transgender-inclusive hate crimes laws at the state level.