UPDATE: Chandler said Friday they have arrested four suspects, 19-year-old Clive Jamar Wilson and three juveniles, in this vandalism incident.
Chandler police are trying to determine who turned a family's homemade menorah display into a swastika.
Naomi and Seth Ellis, along with their three young sons, used PVC pipe to build the seven-foot-tall menorah in their front yard. They crafted the menorah in celebration of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, which began December 24 and ends on New Year's Day.
The Ellises called police at about 5:30 a.m. on Friday to report that someone had vandalized the display at their home in the suburban city east of Phoenix.
Naomi Ellis, a fashion-design instructor at Phoenix College and former Brooklyn bar owner, related her disgust on her public Facebook page Friday morning, and the incident has drawn nationwide media attention.
"We never would have imagined that someone would spread so much hate here. However, this morning we were greeted with this horrible act of aggression," Ellis wrote, asking the public to help catch the suspects. "To think that someone would make such an effort to hurt and vandalize a family, is downright sickening."
"She was grateful because our officer helped turned it back into a menorah before her kids got up," Chandler police detective Seth Tyler tells New Times.
The Ellises couldn't be immediately reached, but Naomi Ellis is quoted in a Washington Post story as saying, "This is the real reality that we live in: People hate us for no reason or want us to feel scared for who we are."
At about 2 p.m., Naomi Ellis published a second Facebook message "inviting the community to 'light' the menorah" with the family at 5:30 tonight.
Tyler says police will canvass the neighborhood and check to see if anyone has video of the crime. Nothing else on the yard was disturbed, he says.
Police, who so far have deemed the incident a case of felony trespassing, ask anyone with information on the vandalized menorah to call (480) 782-4130.
The incident follows other crimes involving menorahs in Sun City and California.
Naomi Ellis' Facebook post:
We were just VICTIMIZED by a HATE CRIME
Last night my home was victimized by HATE. Instead of waking up to see our lighted Hanukkah menorah display on our front lawn, there was a swastika. My husband built the menorah to celebrate the Hanukkah holiday after our kids (3 boys 9, 7,5) asked for their own holiday lights for the season. We live in a great neighborhood with kind and welcoming neighbors. We never would have imagined that someone would spread so much hate here. However, this morning we were greeted with this horrible act of aggression. Our menorah was destroyed and altered to resemble a swastika. This clear act of hate and racism is disturbing and sad. I broke down in tears waiting for the police to come and hoping that my kids would not be awake to see it. The officer helped me take it down, before they woke-up. I’m still not sure how I will explain this to them. I’m not sure I quite understand it myself, nor have I ever understood racism or prejudice in any form. How can people can be filled with so much hate and violence? To think that someone would make such an effort to hurt and vandalize a family, is downright sickening. If you or anyone you know has any information that may help the police, please share and contact Chandler Police in response to 16-148624.