A student was arrested and charged with a hate crime after allegedly spray-painting a swastika on the side of a building on the University of Connecticut campus, police said Thursday.
Kristopher Pieper, 21, a junior from Enfield, Connecticut, was arrested Thursday and charged with intimidation based on bigotry or bias and criminal mischief, according to a police news release, provided by the school to USA TODAY.
Police had identified him as a person of interest in the spray-painting of a swastika on UConn’s chemistry building, directly across the street from the school’s Hillel chapter, a Jewish campus organization that has members across the world. Pieper allegedly painted the Nazi symbol on the first day of Passover on March 27.
A few days later, another swastika and separate Nazi symbol were spray-painted nearby at the Austin building, a short walk from the Chemistry building. Though police believe the incidents are related, Pieper has only been accused of drawing the first, reported The Hartford Courant.
Police say they linked Pieper to the first swastika using video from the campus surveillance system, swipes from his school identification card, and data from UConn’s Wi-Fi network identifying his phone in the area, according to an arrest warrant obtained by USA TODAY.
After seizing his cell phone, police said in the warrant that they found pictures of swastikas both as satire and painted on the Austin building.
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During questioning, Pieper wrote a 10-page statement and apology to the Hillel Community, writing that he was upset with certain Jewish religious practices, police said.
“I do not hate Jews, I am critical of them,” he wrote in the letter, according to the warrant.
Pieper also faces university sanctions, but the school declined to say what those are, citing federal privacy laws.
UConn president Thomas Katsouleas said that the spray paintings were “vile acts” that “were deeply disturbing to our community” in a Thursday letter to students and the community.
“Every member of our community – students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests – deserves to feel safe and respected at UConn,” he wrote. “Anyone who violates that principle goes against the values this university exists to uphold.”
UConn has determined that the total cost to remove the Nazi symbols is $260.
Edina Oestriecher, the executive director of UConn Hillel, said there have been seven reported antisemitic incidents on campus this school year, including acts of graffiti and at least one assault on a Jewish student, who was attacked by several men while walking home from a Passover Seder, she said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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