A student has been arrested and charged with hate crime after allegedly painting a swastika on the side of a building on the University of Connecticut campus, police said Thursday.
Kristopher Pieper, 21, a junior from Enfield, Connecticut, was arrested Thursday and charged with intimidation based on bigotry or bias and criminal mischief, according to a police press release, provided by the school to USA TODAY.
Police had identified him as someone interested in spray painting a swastika on the UConn chemistry building, directly across from the School’s Hillel Chapter, a Jewish campus organization that has members in worldwide. Pieper is said to have painted the Nazi symbol on the first day of Passover on March 27.
Days later, another swastika and another Nazi symbol were spray painted near the Austin building, a short walk from the chemistry building. Although police believe the incidents are related, Pieper was only charged with drawing the first one, The Hartford Courant reported.
Police say they linked Pieper to the first swastika using video from the campus surveillance system, swipes from his school’s ID card, and data from UConn’s Wi-Fi network identifying his phone in the region, according to an arrest warrant obtained by USA TODAY.
After seizing her cell phone, police said in the warrant that they found images of swastikas both satirical and painted on the Austin building.
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During questioning, Pieper wrote a 10-page statement and apology to the Hillel community, writing that he was upset with certain Jewish religious practices, police said.
“I don’t hate Jews, I criticize them,” he wrote in the letter, according to the warrant.
Pieper also faces college penalties, but the school declined to say what it was, citing federal privacy laws.
UConn President Thomas Katsouleas said the spray paintings were “despicable acts” which “deeply disturbed our community” in a letter to students and the community on Thursday.
“Every member of our community – students, faculty, staff, alumni and guests – deserves to feel safe and respected at UConn,” he wrote. “Anyone who violates this principle is going against the values this university is supposed to uphold.”
UConn has determined that the total cost to remove the Nazi symbols is $ 260.
Edina Oestriecher, executive director of UConn Hillel, said there had been seven reported anti-Semitic incidents on campus this school year, including acts of graffiti and at least one assault on a Jewish student, who was attacked by several men as he returned home after a Passover. Seder, she said.
Contribute: The Associated Press