Vandals spray-painted swastikas and a racist slur onto the Thousand Oaks house of a high-ranking minister in the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Monday, the third time since February that graffiti has marred the African-American family's property.
"This is as bad as it's gotten," said the Rev. Kenneth Bushnell, associate director of the church's regional office, which covers California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Hawaii. "We hope it doesn't happen again."
Ventura County sheriff's officials at the East Valley Station said they have assigned a special detective unit to the case but have no suspects yet.
Twice before, vandals have spray-painted swastikas and other symbols onto the property--on walls outside the back yard and on the door, said Bushnell, who moved to Thousand Oaks from Riverside in February with his wife, Elizabeth, and their 17-year-old son.
At about 3:50 a.m. Monday, the property was hit again, Elizabeth Bushnell said.
She said she awoke to see that the motion-triggered security light had come on outside, but did not see the graffiti--scrawled in hard-to-see aluminum spray paint--until they went outside later that morning.
Vandals had again spray-painted a swastika, a symbol often used by white supremacists, onto the garage door and the entryway of the house.
This time they also added the word "Die" and a racist epithet to the garage door, the Bushnells said.
"This has been . . . how shall I put it--really nerve-racking, and I wish it would stop," Elizabeth Bushnell said.
"Having traveled worldwide, we've been to Africa, all through Zimbabwe and Kenya, and then to have to come home to America and see this. . . ." She trailed off and shook her head.
Disgusted by a recent rash of petty vandalism and what they called hate crimes against the Bushnells, the neighbors on their street are banding together to form a neighborhood watch, said coordinator Michele Minor.
"I don't think they had any regard for whose feelings they were hurting," Minor, who has four children ages 3 to 10, said of the vandals. "I don't appreciate that kind of thing around my kids. I don't want them to have to grow up in that kind of neighborhood."
Bushnell said he has no plans to move.
"To me, if you did move, it'd be too much like giving into their desires," Bushnell said.
He looked at the marks of hatred on his entryway, on the door he had just varnished. "I guess some people just never outgrow it," he said.
The Thousand Oaks Crime Stoppers program is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for an anonymous tip that leads to prosecution of the vandals. Call 494-TALK or 656-1500.