News & Politics

Swastikas Spray-Painted on More Than 200 Headstones in Illinois Cemetery Just Before Memorial Day

Twitter screenshot of a gravestone in Illinois spray-painted with swastikas.

Last Friday night, a vandal spray-painted swastikas on more than 200 headstones in an Illinois cemetery. A suspect has been arrested and charges are expected Tuesday.

Mark Johnson, superintendent at Sunset Hill Cemetery in Glen Carbon, Ill., reported the widespread vandalism Saturday morning, and police arrested a suspect that afternoon. The motivation behind the crime remains unknown.

“Sometime during the night, somebody came through and painted swastikas all over,” Johnson told the Belleville News-Democrat. “This is just a rough estimate, but it was somewhere around 200 markers that were painted. They also painted swastikas on our old office building and on two of our family estate mausoleums.”

“It’s just unfortunate that they’re doing it this time of year, because it’s Memorial Day,” Johnson added. “That’s a special day for us.”

Police officers with the Edwardsville and Glen Carbon Police Departments arrested a 34-year-old white male for the vandalism, the Edwardsville Police Department reported Saturday. “The fact the citizens of Glen Carbon and Edwardsville refuse to compromise with crime is greatly appreciated by both police departments,” the department wrote.

Property Damage Suspect

***UPDATE***Edwardsville and Glen Carbon Police Officers have taken a 34 year old white male subject into custody for this incident. Further information will be released after criminal charges are filed. We would like to thank those who shared this post and called with Information. The fact the citizens of Glen Carbon and Edwardsville refuse to compromise with crime is greatly appreciated by both police departments. Our agency is investigating property damage complaints. Below is a video of the possible suspect. Please take a look, if you recognize the individual please contact us at 618-656-2131.

Posted by Edwardsville Police Department on Saturday, May 26, 2018

No charges had been filed Saturday. An Illinois state attorney is expected to file charges on Tuesday, after the Memorial Day weekend.

The cemetery contains the graves of more than 1,300 veterans, and cemetery officials were hoping to remove the paint in time for a Memorial Day event scheduled for noon Monday. For these reasons, the vandalism seems specifically directed against Memorial Day remembrance.

“We’re hoping we’ll be able to get it all off,” Johnson told the News-Democrat. “We can’t do anything right now until the investigation is complete. When it’s complete, they’ll let us start seeing what we can do.”

Laura Payne and her mother, Gerry Ramey, told the News-Democrat they traveled from Centralia to visit the gravesite of Payne’s aunt and Ramey’s sister. That particular gravesite had not been affected.

“It’s very sad. And on this holiday,” Payne said. “There’s just no excuse for that.”

Ramey agreed, saying there is no excuse … “except meanness.”

In addition to the graves, the office building, and the mausoleums, eight homes and two cars in a neighborhood near the cemetery were also spray-pained with swastikas, police said.

Jenn Sullivan, an anchor/reporter with KSDKNEWS in St. Louis, Mo., shared disturbing images of the vandalism on Twitter.

While no motive has yet been determined, it seems likely the perpetrator intended great harm and insult to the memories of many buried in the sanctuary. Given the use of the swastika, it stands to reason the vandalism may have been carried out to support neo-Nazism or anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitic violence has increased in recent years, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

These spray-painted swastikas were particularly heinous given the timing just before Memorial Day. The crime also came mere days after a teenager was sentenced to six months in jail for vandalizing a Jewish cemetery in upstate New York. Four high school students in Maryland were arrested Thursday and charged with hate crimes after they allegedly spray-painted swastikas and other racist graffiti at a high school.