Po­lice: Swastikas likely re­lated to Di­wali fes­ti­val

The Norwalk Hour - - FROM THE FRONT PAGE - By John Nick­er­son

STAM­FORD — Po­lice say the swastikas drawn in bright-col­ored chalk with hearts on the side­walk out­side the down­town li­brary last month were likely re­lated to a Hindu re­li­gious cel­e­bra­tion.

Lt. Tom Scan­lon said in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­ferred with a Hindu swami and a mem­ber of the FBI Hate Crime Unit and de­ter­mined the draw­ings were part of the Hindu cel­e­bra­tion of lights known as Di­wali.

Scan­lon said po­lice ini­tially in­ves­ti­gated the in­ci­dent out­side the Fer­gu­son Li­brary as a hate crime be­cause they were un­aware of Di­wali and since there was a Jewish lec­ture sched­uled for that night at the li­brary.

Po­lice have re­leased an im­age of a sus­pect who was cap­tured on se­cu­rity video, but have not been able to iden­tify him.

“We want the com­mu­nity to know that if at some point we do iden­tify this per­son we will fol­low up on this in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Scan­lon said. “But at this point, we felt it was im­por­tant to put this in­for­ma­tion out there, be­cause we knew a lot of peo­ple were con­cerned and sen­si­tive to this is­sue.”

Hate crimes have been on the de­cline in Stam­ford. There were six in­ci­dents last year, down from eight in 2016, ac­cord­ing to statis­tics com­piled by the Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion. There were 10 Stam­ford hates crimes in 2015 and nine in 2014, ac­cord­ing to the FBI stats.

As­sis­tant Po­lice Chief James Ma­theny, who has of­fered safety and se­cu­rity train­ing to sev­eral Stam­ford tem­ples, said with­out ad­di­tional ev­i­dence about last month’s draw­ings, the in­ci­dent will not be recorded as a hate crime.

Sgt. Paul Guzda, the lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor on the case, said the FBI ex­pert ex­am­ined pho­tos of the swastikas and de­ter­mined they were non­threat­en­ing and likely re­lated to Di­wali.

“He metic­u­lously went over the de­signs, and in his ex­pert opin­ion, he felt the sym­bols more closely re­sem­bled those used by the Hin­dus dur­ing Di­wali,” Guzda said.

Guzda said a Hindu swami also said the swastikas could have been re­lated to Di­wali.

“These were drawn in pas­tel chalk, not black spray paint,” Guzda said.

Stam­ford Rabbi Daniel Co­hen, of Con­gre­ga­tion Agu­dath Shalom, said he trusts the re­sults of the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“I leave those de­ter­mi­na­tions to the ex­perts,” Co­hen said. “I trust the Stam­ford po­lice depart­ment. They have al­ways been com­mit­ted to stand­ing up to anti-Semitism. If, through their in­ves­ti­ga­tion, that is what they think, that’s fine. We need to con­tinue build­ing bridges.”

Diane Sloyer, CEO of the United Jewish Fed­er­a­tion of Stam­ford, New Canaan and Darien, said she was not so sure. Sloyer said she re­searched the Di­wali sym­bols and found sub­tle dif­fer­ences that she be­lieves proves the ones found out­side the li­brary were anti-Semitic.

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