BEVERLY HILLS (CNS) - A Texas man was in custody Monday for allegedly vandalizing and carving a Nazi symbol into the base of a large Menorah in Beverly Hills on the first night of Hanukkah.
It was the latest in a string of recent antisemitic episodes in the Los Angeles area.
Eric Brian King, 47, of Dallas, was booked on suspicion of felony vandalism and a hate crime, Lt. Giovanni Trejo of the Beverly Hills Police Department said. King was being held on $20,000 bail, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
"A despicable act such as this will never be tolerated in our city," Beverly Hills police Chief Mark Stainbrook said in a statement.
Police went to the area of Sunset Boulevard and Foothill Road about 8 p.m. Sunday on "a report of a suspect defacing a Menorah on private property ..." Trejo said in a statement.
"The suspect was located with the assistance of the police department's Real Time Watch Center ... after surveillance video depicted him throwing objects at a Menorah," Trejo said. "The initial investigation revealed that King carved Nazi symbols into the base of the Menorah."
Detectives are conducting a follow-up investigation, which may lead to additional charges being sought against King, Trejo said.
Meanwhile, local faith leaders condemned the crime as "despicable" and "disgusting," while also decrying a wider rise of antisemitic episodes.
"We are aware of the despicable antisemitic crime in Beverly Hills last night and are working with our partners in the city of Beverly Hills and local law enforcement to ensure that justice is served and future acts of hate can be prevented," Rabbi Noah Farkas, president/CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said in a statement Monday.
"It is unfortunate that we as Jews can't even have a peaceful display of our religion without being targeted in this disturbing wave of recent antisemitism locally and globally. We will not let this act, or any act of hate, deter us from celebrating the wonder of Hanukkah and the joy of being Jewish. We will continue to live with pride and will never allow an incident like this to diminish our spirit."
Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles-area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a separate statement: "We are extremely alarmed by the growing threat of antisemitism in this country. These disgusting hate crimes have been occurring at an increasing frequency and are a threat to the fabric of our society.
"The Jewish community deserves to celebrate their holidays and live in peace without disturbance from hate-filled individuals. We stand by our Jewish brothers and sisters today and every day as they face increasing ignorance and discrimination."
Sunday's Beverly Hills crime was the latest in a string of recent antisemitic episodes locally.
In October, antisemitic banners were draped on an overpass of the San Diego (405) Freeway in Los Angeles, and some 25 flyers blaming gun control on Jewish people were disbursed in Beverly Hills.
In the Oct. 22 Beverly Hills incident, about 25 flyers were distributed in the north end of the city. The flyers were left in an area north of Sunset Boulevard and west of Benedict Canyon Drive.
Reports of those flyers came one day after seven activists with the anti-Jewish group Goyim Defense League draped signs on an overpass of the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles that read, "Kanye is right about the Jews" and "Honk if you know."
Several of the activists were photographed making "Heil Hitler" salutes on the overpass that Saturday. The sign was a reference to recent antisemitic statements made by rapper Ye -- formerly known as Kanye West. It was unclear if the same group was responsible for the flyers in Beverly Hills.
The most recent antisemitic incident occurred in the wake of a report earlier this month that said hate crimes in Los Angeles County rose to their highest level in 19 years in 2021 -- jumping 23% from the previous year.
According to the report by the county Commission on Human Relations, there were 786 reported hate crimes in the county last year, up from 641 the prior year. The number is the highest it has been since 2002.
Religion-based hate crimes jumped by 29%, with 74% of the offenses targeting Jews, according to the report.
In addition, the report said, the number of hate crimes targeting Asian residents rose to 77, the highest number in at least 20 years. In roughly one-fourth of the crimes targeting Asians, the victims were blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic. The report also noted that 46% of racially based hate crimes targeted Black residents, although they only make up 9% of the overall population.
Crimes based on sexual orientation jumped by 15% year over year, with 85% of those crimes targeting gay men. There were 41 anti-transgender crimes, with 93% of those offenses classified as violent crimes, a rate exceeding those for racial, sexual-orientation and religious attacks.
Overall, the report noted that hate crimes have grown by 105% since falling to an all-time low in 2013.