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Hate tagger says he’s sorry

Letter from victim prompts teen suspect to confess to crime

Posted: September 2, 2008 9:09 p.m.
Updated: November 4, 2008 5:00 a.m.
 

A racist event that could have torn a Saugus neighborhood apart might bring it together.

Nathan Sklar’s sport utility vehicle was vandalized late Aug. 27. The vandals used shoe polish to draw a swastika and a penis on the rear window of the vehicle, he said. He used the incident as a chance to teach an important lesson.

Sklar, who is Jewish, circulated letters Thursday warning his neighbors about the dangers of intolerance. He also ciurculated an image of the hateful words and images that scarred the back window of his SUV.
In the letter, Sklar called on his neighbors to stand up to hate and help the perpetrators learn why intolerance won’t be tolerated.

“My mom was taken to a (concentration) camp as a child and her family murdered by those that related to the swastika. The same was done to my father. My parents are alive today and I feel I need to stand up when hate rears its ugly face.” he wrote in the letter.

The 13-year-old tagger reportedly confessed to the crime Friday.

“(The tagger) told my son, ‘dude I forgot you guys were Jewish,’” Sklar said, paraphrasing the vandal’s confession.

Sklar chose not to press charges because he would rather teach the boy a lesson than punish him.  
“I don’t think this was a hate crime, just a prank that got out of control,” said Sklar’s neighbor, Bill Gaut.
Derby Place is a quiet cul-de-sac at the top of Sheffield Lane.

Gaut has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years and said kids wrap trees with toilet paper and teenage pranks are common. but something as malicious as swastikas scrawled on someone’s car isn’t normal, he said.

Sklar agrees.

“I don’t think kids these days have a clue about the dangers of intolerance,” he said.

Sklar hopes parents will use recent events to take the time to sit their kids down and talk about the subject.

“There’s been an increase of these types of incidents in the last month,” said Detective Chris Keeling of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Hate Crimes Unit. He is investigating two similar incidents in the Santa Clarita Valley.

A swastika and the word “confederator” was spray-painted on a car belonging to a black woman in Canyon Country on July 20. Two other cars in the area had penises spray-painted on them.

Swastikas, the word “n----r,” and references to Barack Obama and John McCain were written in shoe polish on a pick-up truck in Saugus on Sunday.

There is nothing connecting the incidents at this time but that doesn’t rule out a possible connection, Keeling said. The incidents are being looked at as hate crimes but the chance they are not hate crimes has not been ruled out, he said.

“Sometimes in these cases Hispanics target other Hispanics, whites other whites and blacks other blacks,” he said.

There is also a chance that the other incidents were copycat crimes of the first occurrence July 20, Keeling said. If the crimes were the work of a copycat, the Internet may be the source for the vandals’ inspiration.

“Young kids commit the crime and as they are doing it, they are posting the images to (Internet sites) like Photobucket, MySpace or YouTube,” he said.

Keeling began the investigation into the Saugus incident Tuesday. There aren’t many leads in the investigation. A green subcompact car was seen fleeing the scene, Keeling said, but investigators don’t have much else to work with.

There are no leads in the investigation of the July 20 incident. 

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