Trenches in the shape of a large swastika and the letters "F JEW" were found dug into a golf course near Sacramento. (Photo/Facebook)
Trenches in the shape of a large swastika and the letters "F JEW" were found dug into a golf course near Sacramento. (Photo/Facebook)

Sacramento police tight-lipped after swastika-shaped trench dug at golf course

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Sacramento County police were saying little this week after the discovery of a brazen act of antisemitic vandalism at a golf course on Sept. 15.

In a terse statement to J., police would not confirm whether the incident had been classified as a hate crime, only that no one was in custody after gashes multiple feet deep were found in a putting green at Cherry Island Golf Course in Elverta, 20 miles north of Sacramento. Some gashes formed a swastika, while others spelled “F JEW.”

Rabbi Nancy Wechsler of nearby Congregation Beth Shalom called the incident “very concerning” and said it appeared to be the work of someone “spewing hate.”

“It’s just ugly, and mean,” she added.

In a statement to J. Thursday, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Sgt. Rod Grassmann confirmed the incident but said little else, declining to answer questions including whether a hate crime investigation was underway. A county official in a separate conversation estimated the cost to repair the damage at “under $1,000.”

Workers filling in the holes (Photo/Facebook)
Workers filling in the holes (Photo/Facebook)

“There was a vandalism that occurred at the golf course on Sept. 15, 2022. An unidentified subject(s) dug symbols into the grass on the course,” Grassmann wrote. “The symbols resembled a swastika. No one is in custody (cited) at this time. I have no further information to share.”

The incident followed multiple cases of antisemitic propaganda displayed in recent months from organized white supremacist groups in Sacramento County and nearby Davis, as well as a handful of slapdash incidents of pro-Nazi vandalism.

Three cases of pro-Nazi graffiti marred the start of the semester at Sacramento State University. On Sept. 1, a student found a swastika on a classroom wall, and the next day an employee spotted the Nazi symbol near the entrance to campus on J Street. The incidents prompted a press conference with Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who is Jewish. This week, a Sacramento State employee found a third swastika alongside the words “white pride nation wide [sic]” scrawled on a sign in the university’s arboretum.

About a month ago in Davis, four members of a white supremacist “memorial active club,” dressed in black, strung antisemitic banners claiming “Communism is Jewish” and “The Holocaust is an Anti-White Lie” on a highway overpass. Active clubs are white supremacist cells closely tied to the Rise Above Movement, a Southern California-based nativist group in which members “train to do physical battle with their ideological foes,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Last year, a follower of Aryan Nations, a group sharing ideology with the Ku Klux Klan, papered a messianic synagogue with flyers saying, “Hitler was right.” In December, county police arrested then-33-year-old Nicholas Wayne Sherman for the vandalism, charging him with desecration of a religious symbol.

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Sacramento County is also home to a contingent of the Proud Boys, though the “Western chauvinist” group is not usually associated with antisemitic vandalism.

The Cherry Island Golf Course general manager did not immediately respond to J.’s request for comment, but on the day the vandalism was discovered, the 18-hole public course issued a statement calling it “despicable.”

“That it happened here is heartbreaking and a serious matter,” the statement said. “Cherry Island Golf Course condemns hate speech.”

“We’re thinking it had to have happened after the course closed Wednesday evening and before it opened Thursday,” Ken Casparis, a spokesperson for Sacramento County, said in a phone interview. He said he was taken aback when he saw photos of the vandalism on social media.

“Some of those cuts were pretty precise,” he said. “I was shocked at how deep they were and how sharp some of the lines were, especially on the lettering. I’m not sure what kind of tools were used for that.”

The county spoke out against the incident in an official statement: “Sacramento County condemns hate speech in the strongest terms. Antisemitism, racism, hate and hate speech have no place in Sacramento County. This incident of discrimination has been turned over to the Sacramento Sheriff’s Office and is under investigation.”

Wechsler, who said a theme of her Rosh Hashanah sermon was the importance of intercultural peace building, said she hoped law enforcement would find out who had committed the act of vandalism, because “small steps are cumulative” and “the spewing of hate” can lead to violence. “Underneath this spewing of hate is suffering,” she added. “That suffering has to be addressed in many different ways.”

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.