Four youths arrested after swastika spree in San Jose

An 18-year-old and three juveniles were arrested Monday following a late-night rampage on a San Jose neighborhood.

Houses and other surfaces were painted with swastikas, car tires were slashed and a Molotov cocktail was broken in the street, according to a police officer.

Residents in the East San Jose neighborhood called police when they heard the youths "yelling, screaming and making noise in the middle of the street" shortly after 1 a.m. Monday, according to San Jose Police Officer Rubens Dalaison.

Jack Williams, 18, of San Jose was booked on charges of felony vandalism and possession of a destructive device. Two of the juveniles were also charged with felony vandalism. A third, believed to be 15, was interviewed but had not been charged as of Wednesday.

"Anti-Semitic symbols and other nondescript graffiti were painted on houses, walls, cars, mailboxes, street signs and bridge railings," Dalaison said. In all, 19 sites were vandalized.

Police say the youths had been drinking for several hours before they ran amok.

The foursome reportedly vandalized cars and attacked homes "without any particular regard to who owned them," he said.

Graffiti included the slogan, "8H" — neo-Nazi shorthand for "Heil Hitler."

The incident troubled Jon Friedenberg, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater San Jose. "I would say it points to the need to do more work on tolerance and ethnic diversity in the schools."

Asians, whites and East Indians own homes in the east San Jose neighborhood, as does the family of one of the youths. However, no Jewish families are known to live in the immediate area.

No arraignment date had been set by press time.

Although police were investigating the vandalism spree as a hate crime, no evidence immediately linked the perpetrators to the white supremacist movement.

But the crime appears to fit a common profile: an older instigator who involves younger followers, according to Jonathan Bernstein, director of the Anti-Defamation League Central Pacific Region.

For example, Victor Podbreger, 19, is going to stand trial for arson, possession of a destructive device and committing a hate crime in the Aug. 29 firebombing of a judge's San Jose home. That crime allegedly involved two underage accomplices.

Rebecca Rosen Lum

Rebecca Rosen Lum is a freelance writer.