Police in Lake Havasu City are investigating an act of vandalism at the city’s only synagogue.
Congregation leaders at Temple Beth Sholom discovered the vandalism, which police believe occurred between 8 p.m. on Dec. 27 and 8 a.m. on Dec. 28. So far, there are no suspects or leads in the case.
“It appears that about eight exterior light fixtures were damaged,” said Lake Havasu City Police Sgt. Tom Gray. “It appears that they had been ripped out of the side wall. There was a large sign that was knocked over and there were some other fixtures around the property that also appeared to have been knocked over and damaged in some way.”
A Star of David mosaic was also damaged. Temple Beth Sholom leaders had no comment on the incident.
According to the Arizona regional office of the Anti-Defamation League, the Lake Havasu City case was recorded as Arizona’s last anti-Semitic incident of 2018. During the first 10 days of December, the ADL reported six anti-Semitic incidents across the state. Most took place in the Valley, with one occurring in Yuma.
“This act of vandalism at Temple Beth Sholom in Lake Havasu City is very disturbing,” said ADL Arizona Regional Director Carlos Galindo-Elvira in a statement. “There is no place for hate in Arizona. ADL Arizona reached out to congregational leadership to express solidarity and concern. We also reached out to the Lake Havasu City Police Department and appreciate their efforts in responding and investigating this hate incident.”
Gray, however, said it is too early in the investigation to label the vandalism a hate crime.
“At this point, we have no evidence to support that, so at this point we’re not classifying it as a hate crime,” Gray said. “There were no witnesses, there were no cameras, but we were able to collect some evidence that is currently being analyzed. But at this point, we don’t have any other suspect information on whether it was one individual or multiple individuals.”
Gray said the dollar amount of the damage to Temple Beth Sholom, which was founded in 1992, was about $1,000. As it stands now, anyone arrested in the case would face a misdemeanor criminal damage charge. However, if it is determined that the vandalism was a hate crime, the perpetrator or perpetrators would face a felony charge.
Gray added that the synagogue sits on a busy street and investigators are combing the area to see if there were any witnesses to the crime or whether surveillance cameras from neighboring businesses captured the incident.
“The synagogue is located on a well-traveled street, so possibly someone will come forward with some information,” Gray said.
In 2015, Temple Beth Sholom was vandalized by a male suspect who threw rocks at the synagogue, chipping its stucco exterior and cracking a window. Gray said no arrests were made in that case.
In response to the latest incident, Gray said Lake Havasu City police would be conducting extra patrols in an around the area surrounding the synagogue. Lake Havasu City is about 200 miles west of Phoenix, close to the borders of California and Nevada.
“We live in a relatively safe community, so hopefully this is just an isolated incident,” Gray said. JN