PORT WASHINGTON, NY – The Port Washington Police Chief is walking back his previous comments regarding swastikas that were found earlier this week at the Port Washington Police Athletic League, clarifying that the incident is being investigated as a hate crime.
On Thursday, Police Chief Robert DelMuro issued a statement clarifying his previous comments, in which he said the incident was not considered a hate crime because the damage was inside the building and passersby could not see it.
"I apologize that my position regarding the egregious hate crime perpetated at the Port Washington Athletic League building was not stated more clearly," DelMuro said in the statement. "Unquestionably, a swastika is a deplorable symbol of hate."
DelMuro said his previous comments were an attempt to explain how this particular incident differed from other hate crimes in that the symbols were not placed on the exterior of the building, and that the materials used were already in the building and were accessed after the building had been broken into.
"Of course, that does not diminish the severity of this crime," he said in the statement. "It is a hate crime and is being investigated as such."
On Sunday, Port Washington PAL executive director Rob Elkins observed the swastikas after being notified by a member of the club. The swastikas were spray painted after the clubhouse had been broken into and equipment was damaged.
Following DelMuro's statement Thursday, State Senator Anna Kaplan responded to the department's efforts to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
"The anti-Semitic hate crime that took place in Port Washington this weekend, where several enormous swastikas were spray-painted throughout a youth athletic facility, is unequivocally an anti-Semtici hate crime, and I'm relieved that Chief DelMuro agrees, and has clarified his statement so that the community can have faith that this horrendous act will be thoroughly and properly investigated as a hate crime," she said in a statement.
Kaplan joined Elkins and community members on Thursday outside the facility to condemn the act.
A GoFundMe page has been established to raise money to help the PAL replace, repair and restore the areas that were damaged. The page has raised $12,000 of its $25,000 so far.
Among the damaged items were a lawn tractor, which was broken and spray painted with a swastika, according to the GoFundMe page organizer Danielle Elkins. A "Thank You Wall," filled with athlete and parent notes and pictures of the summer programs was also damaged.