Arrested Man Admits To Toppling 100 Headstones In St. Louis Jewish Cemetery
(JTA) — A man from suburban St. Louis has been arrested for toppling more than 100 headstones at a local Jewish cemetery more than a year ago.
Alzado Harris, 34, was arrested on Tuesday after police matched DNA found in a jacket left at the scene of the February 2017 vandalism to Harris, who has a prior criminal history. After his arrest at his home, Harris admitted to the vandalism at the Chesed Shel Emeth Jewish cemetery, the St. Louis Dispatch reported.
Harris faces up to seven years in prison on the charge of one count of institutional vandalism. He is not charged with a bias or hate crime.
“There is no evidence to indicate the incident was racially, ethnically or religiously motivated,” University City police said in a statement. According to the police statement, Harris said that “he acted alone, was angry over a personal matter and was under the influence of drugs when he committed the offense.”
The attack came as Jewish community centers and other Jewish institutions around the country were receiving dozens of bomb threats. St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said during a news conference on Wednesday that the crime “was not good timing on his (Harris’) part,” but that the fact that the cemetery Harris vandalized was Jewish seems to be coincidental.
In the wake of the attack, Missouri’s Jewish governor, Eric Greitens, volunteered with members of his staff to help clean and repair the damage to the cemetery, and Vice President Mike Pence visited the cemetery, picking up a rake to help with cleanup efforts.
Two Muslim activists, Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi, launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $20,000 for repairs, which ultimately raised over $162,000. In addition to paying for repairs and improvements at the St. Louis cemetery, the funds went to help pay to repair damage to a Philadelphia-area Jewish cemetery vandalized days after the St, Louis attack, to help the downtown Chicago Loop Synagogue repair anti-Semitic vandalism. and to restore a neglected and vandalized Jewish cemetery in Colorado.