Police investigate white supremacist graffiti in downtown Columbus

Crimetracker

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Columbus leaders are condemning a weekend rash of white supremacist graffiti as detectives work to track down the person responsible for the racist vandalism.

“When someone comes in and spray paints on our buildings and on our churches, something that is despicable, it’s not something we want to have here,” said Columbus Police Lieutenant Matt Harris. “Not something that we want in our community, and it’s the exact opposite of what we stand for here in Columbus.”

The graffiti was discovered Saturday morning on buildings that include the Cummins Inc. Corporate Office Building, the downtown First Presbyterian Church, a city parking garage and others. The suspect apparently used spray paint and a stencil to promote the logo that represents a group identified as white supremacist in philosophy.

Reverend Felipe Martinez said one of his members discovered the vandalism on a banner and windows of the First Presbyterian Church Saturday morning.

“This kind of damage and this kind of philosophy is not going to have the last word,” Martinez said. “Because that’s what we celebrate on Easter, that death and violence and sin does not have the last word.”

First Presbyterian Church in downtown Columbus is openly supportive of the LGBTQ and Transgender community. Although Martinez doesn’t claim to know the suspect’s motive, he says a spray painted gospel verse on a church window provides a clue.

“To have a claim against LGBTQ people, and we won’t stand for that,” he said.

Nearby, graffiti was still visible on columns near the Cummins Inc. Corporate Office Building entrance Monday afternoon. Cummins is well known as an international employer, which contributes to diversity throughout the Columbus area.

“That broad spectrum of people that come to Columbus makes this community special,” Lt. Harris said. “Tons of different languages spoken in our schools and people literally from all corners of the globe.”

“The statements and symbols in no way represent our community,” said Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhood in a statement. “In Columbus we welcome people of all colors, nationalities and ethnicities, who bring with them a rich culture and diversity that benefits us all.”

“Cummins vehemently condemns these actions that represent hate and intolerance, and have been direct contributors to increased violence in communities everywhere,” Cummins Inc. spokesperson Jon Mills said in a statement. “We will continue speaking up against hate and taking action to ensure our employees and the communities we serve are safe, and ask others to do their part individually and collectively to prevent the spread of hate and discrimination.”

As of Monday, detectives had at least one still image of a potential suspect, captured on a downtown camera. The image showed a white male wearing eye glasses as well as a gray sweatshirt, blue jeans, and a black backpack.  

“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Harris said. “There’s a number of businesses downtown that have video that we need to review.”

“This type of behavior is not going to be tolerated here, and we are going to do everything we can to put a stop to it,” Harris continued.

Harris said the case will likely be reported to the FBI so it will be part of federal records. Anyone with information is asked to call the Columbus Police Department at 812-376-2600.

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