LA PLATA, Md. - The Charles County Sheriffs Office has arrested five teenagers for destroying mailboxes and writing racially-offensive remarks on March 9.
The investigation began March 9 at 10:30 p.m., when the Sheriffs Office received a call from a citizen who said he observed several people damage a mailbox in the 17000 block of Creekside Drive in Brandywine. When the citizen observed the vehicle flee the scene, he followed it until it turned down Scout Camp Road, which has no outlet. He quickly erected a barricade from some rope and a wooden No Trespassing sign and called police. When officers arrived, they found the vehicle behind the barricade. It was occupied by three juveniles, who were subsequently were identified and arrested. They had destroyed other mailboxes in neighborhoods off of Woodville Road that night. As a result, they were charged with multiple counts of malicious destruction of property valued at less than $500 and were released to their parents. Two of the juveniles are 17 years old, the other is 15 and all are males. Officer G. Barnhart investigated.
On March 10 at 8:15 a.m., officers responded to a residence in the 4400 block of Clayton Court in Waldorf for the report of a hate crime. Investigation revealed the victim was leaving his residence when he discovered his mailbox had been damaged. He also found a second mailbox next to his on which someone had used a black marker to draw swastikas and write a reference to Hitler, a racially offensive phrase and other inappropriate phrases.
While Officer S. Hawkins was investigating he discovered a possible link between his case and Officer Barnharts. When Officer Barnhart arrested the three juveniles for the incident on Creekside Lane, he found books about the Third Reich in the back seat of their vehicle. Officer Hawkins responded to the residence of the registered owner of the vehicle, the father of one of the juveniles and found the books and a black marker in the car. Officer Hawkins subsequently charged the 17-year-old with a hate crime and destruction of property valued at less than $500. He was charged as a juvenile and released back to his father. Officer Hawkins determined the teenagers two accomplices in the Creekside Drive incident and two other 17-year-old Waldorf boys were also involved in the Clayton Court incident. Three of the boys were charged on March 11 and the other boy was charged on March 12.
The accused were interviewed by detectives with the Charles County Hate Crimes Task Force, which includes detectives from the Sheriffs Office and FBI agents, and admitted to their roles in the hate crime and in destroying the mailboxes on March 9 in neighborhoods off of Woodville Road. They also acknowledged destroying more mailboxes March 2 in the Friendship Estates and Cartagena Highlands subdivisions after assembling at a former military site in the Laurel Branch subdivision. They are all charged as juveniles with one count of a hate crime and 19 counts of destruction of property valued at less than $500.
These arrests are the result of excellent police work and the efforts of a Good Samaritan, said Charles County Sheriff Rex W. Coffey. A citizen took action when he saw his neighbors mailbox damaged and we linked that case with the hate crime because our officers are attentive and conducted thorough investigations.
Although I am very proud of the citizen and the investigators, I am disappointed by the circumstances of this crime, the Sheriff said. Charles County is a beautifully diverse community but unfortunately, these teenagers tried to interfere with our efforts to promote unity. We will not let their actions dictate what type of community Charles County is or divide those of us who value our diversity and abide by the law.
The accused are not responsible for a hate crime that occurred March 10 on Trinity Church Road but investigators believe they may be responsible for other hate crimes that occurred in 2006. The Trinity Church Road and Clayton Court hate crimes are the first to occur this year.
Two teenagers were arrested for one hate crime in Waldorf last year and were not linked to any additional incidents. The Hate Crimes Task Force is continuing its efforts to identify the suspects in the 2006 string of hate crimes but their efforts cannot be discussed for investigative purposes.
Charles County Crime Solvers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information that leads to an arrest or indictment in any unsolved hate crimes. Anyone who wants to provide information can do so anonymously by calling 1-866-411-TIPS.