BROOKFIELD - Neighbors in a typically low crime area of Masury woke up Monday morning to discover that they had become targets overnight of what they are now calling a hate crime.
About a half dozen households, most of which have black residents, along Brookfield Avenue were hit by vandals who scratched their vehicles, racking up hundreds of dollars in damages, police said.
At least one resident reported that a racial slur had been etched into the passenger side door of his car.
Tribune Chronicle / Virginia Shank
Squiggles scratched into the door of this pickup truck were among the least offensive of the graffiti left by vandals this week in a Masury neighborhood of Brookfield. Police continued to investigate the vandalism as a hate crime.
Investigators believe that although white families were also hit, the black residents in the racially mixed neighborhood were the focus of the criminal damaging and ethnic intimidation, according to a Brookfield police report.
"After speaking with all the victims in criminal damaging to vehicles, it appears that the suspect was only targeting black residents," the police report states.
Residents said they did not want their names published because of safety concerns, but agreed that they wanted to let people know what happened.
"It's very unsettling. You wake up to find something like this. It just doesn't make sense. It's frightening," one woman said.
The matter is being investigated by Brookfield police detectives. As of Thursday, no one had been arrested.
Police said the complaints they've received from that area in recent years have been few and far between.
"I've lived here 50 years and never, ever, has something like this happened," one man said. "There's never been this kind of problem."
He, like other neighborhood residents, said he has no doubt the damage was meant to hurt blacks in the community, or people who are related to or associate with them.
"They hit every black house along the avenue," he said. "It's a shame."
Police were first called to the neighborhood just before 7:30 a.m. by a resident who noticed a racial slur had been scratched into his car door when he went outside to leave for work.
Police found the top of the busted whiskey bottle lying in the yard. It is believed that the bottle top was used to cause all of the damage reported along Brookfield Avenue Monday morning.
One woman reported that her son's vehicle was also damaged sometime overnight. Although the family is white, police believe the son's car may have been targeted because it was parked in the driveway of a neighbor, who is black and whose vehicle was also damaged. The entire passenger side of one vehicle, part of the other side and top of the hood were scratched and the driver's rear door of the other car was damaged.
The woman, who said she has never had a problem since moving into the area three years ago, said she also believes the incident was racially motivated.
"They did this to every black family down the road. It's pretty obvious it was meant to hurt them," she said.
One man told police that sometime overnight someone scratched the driver side door of his vehicle.
Police reported that just before 9 a.m., as they were checking for other vehicles that had been damaged overnight, they noticed another car that had damage to the driver's side door and notified the owner.
Although most residents said they have no idea what precipitated the vandalism, one man said he believes the incident may have been prompted by the funeral on Monday of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by a white police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo.
"I don't think it was a coincidence for this to happen on the eve of the funeral. But I don't know. It just doesn't make any sense," one vehicle owner said.