Port Washington Police Chief Robert Del Muro on Thursday reversed course and said an act of vandalism involving spray-painted swastikas inside the hamlet’s athletic league clubhouse was being investigated as a hate crime.
In a statement released shortly after noon Thursday, Del Muro also apologized for not clearly stating his department's position on its investigation.
"I apologize that my position regarding the egregious hate crime perpetrated at the Port Washington Athletic League building was not stated more clearly," the statement read.
"Unquestionably, a swastika is a deplorable symbol of hate. I attempted to explain that this hate crime differs from many others in that the symbols were placed in the interior of the building, rather than on the exterior, and were painted using materials that were already in the building and were accessed after the building was burglarized. Of course, that does not diminish the severity of the crime. It is a hate crime and is being investigated as such. Please be assured that this hate crime is being actively and thoroughly investigated by our agency and we will tirelessly pursue the perpetrator(s)."
Del Muro told Newsday Wednesday: "We don’t consider this a hate crime. It's a crime of opportunity."
He further elaborated at that time that the department did not consider the spray-painted swastikas to be a hate crime because the damage was contained to inside the building and passersby couldn’t see the graffiti.
He added that the paint used in the vandalism was stored inside the building and was also sprayed on softballs and on part of a baseball pitch machine.