A 16-year-old boy believed to be a skinhead was arrested by sheriff's deputies Wednesday on suspicion of severely vandalizing a Jewish cemetery in Norwalk.
Detective Richard Hiles of the Norwalk sheriff's station said at least $50,000 in damage was done to 39 of the 200 tombstones at the Chevra Kadisha Mortuary on Curtis & King Road. Several markers--inscribed with family names and Jewish symbols such as the Star of David--were found in piles of marble and granite.
The suspect's white power and swastika tattoos led investigators to believe the crime was racially motivated. Hiles said the boy claimed to be affiliated with Norwalk Skinheads, a local gang.
The boy, apparently a runaway from a foster home, was arrested on suspicion of vandalizing a place of worship and committing a hate crime, both felonies. Though he had not been charged, he was being held on an outstanding grand theft warrant at Los Padrinos Juvenile Detention Center in Downey.
Investigators believe that a crowbar found near the scene was used to pry the headstones away from their cement platforms. Other stones were probably pushed or kicked over.
Neighbors said they heard loud noises coming from the cemetery for about 30 minutes beginning about 1:10 a.m. Three deputies arrived about 1:35 a.m. and caught the boy, but a suspected accomplice escaped.
"There's no better way to get attention than to desecrate a cemetery, and that's what they were out for," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.