Riverside police say that swastikas found spray-painted on the windows of a home under construction on Lionel Road on Christmas Day may have been aimed at intimidating a couple reportedly negotiating to purchase the property.
Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said detectives are still investigating the incident, which could be classified later as a hate crime.
“As this is a disgusting incident and potentially a hate crime, I have assigned detectives to work on this specific case and put any resources they need towards the possible apprehension of the suspect(s),” said Weitzel in a press release issued Dec. 28. “At this time, police are working on some theories but have no solid leads.”
According to Weitzel, swastikas were spray-painted onto all 25 windows of the home, which is framed but partially open to the elements. Whoever spray-painted the windows had to climb ladders from floor to floor to reach the windows on upper floors. The offender used purple spray paint, which Weitzel said could be a key piece of evidence.
No one witnessed the swastikas being painted, and police believe that the damage was done overnight on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day. Police notified the contractor, who hired a cleaning service to remove the swastikas on Christmas Day.
While it’s unclear at this time why the swastikas may have been painted on the windows of the upscale home being built in the 300 block of Lionel Road, the prospective owners reportedly told police they believe it was a message sent to them personally.
The couple negotiating the purchase of the home reportedly are of Indian descent, said Weitzel.
“They’re in the process of purchasing the property from the contractor,” said Weitzel. “They believe the swastikas were painted because they believe someone doesn’t want them to move in.”
According to records obtained from the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, the property went into foreclosure in 2011 and was sold at a sheriff’s auction in 2013. The property has been vacant since at least that time.
In January 2014, the property was acquired by a Connecticut-based corporation, which sold it in May 2015 to Victorian Painters and General Contractors, whose president is Riverside resident and general contractor Jack Shay.
The home on the property was demolished to accommodate a new structure.
Attempts to reach Shay were unsuccessful prior to press time.