Klahanie graffiti being investigated as hate crime

There have been 17 counts of red spray paint covering cars and garages so far.

UPDATE: More crimes happened Saturday night, early Sunday morning. Story in next issue of the Reporter.

In the last three days there have been 17 incidents of red graffiti on cars, garage doors, signs and metal mail boxes in the Klahanie area of Sammamish.

“They’re painting anything they can,” said Sammamish Police Chief Michelle Bennett.

Some of the graffiti is scribbles, but there were also three swastikas, the N-word and profanity in Spanish. The police department is taking the instances at face value as hate crimes, Bennett said, and hopes through the investigation, they will discover what the intent was.

“We’re going to investigate to our fullest ability and hope to catch these people and make it stop,” she said.

Similar incidents, with multiple depictions of offensive racially-charged language, have not occurred in the area since Bennett’s tenure at the department, she said. She began in Sammamish in 2016.

While some of the paint has been removed, some remains. In response, neighbors have put up signs about Klahanie being a place of love and not hate, Bennett said. “There’s always the silver lining. In this instance, neighbors and the city have come together to show we don’t stand for this.”

In response to the incident the Sammamish City Council wrote, “While the Sammamish Police are investigating this hate crime, we are sharing this information in a public forum because we want it to be perfectly clear that Sammamish, this community, our community, will not stand for this kind of behavior.”

The statement continues that Sammamish is “fortunate to have the diversity of races, religions, cultures and traditions that we do — because a diverse community strengthens and enriches all aspects of the lives of our residents, and better prepares future generations to live and thrive in a global world.”

Reps. Bill Ramos and Lisa Callan (both D-Issaquah) issued statements condemning the actions.

“We are saddened by the hateful and racist graffiti that was spray-painted on our neighbors’ homes in Sammamish on Tuesday night (Feb. 19),” Callan wrote in a news release. “Our communities value diversity and inclusion and we will not stand for hate. This type of crime is all too common in our country right now. Hate crimes are a serious problem and we need to take action now.”

Callan, in referencing the Southern Poverty Law Center, wrote that hate groups in the U.S. have grown by 30 percent over the last four years.

“These actions are not acceptable,” Ramos wrote. “That is why we are united in supporting House Bill 1732, which strengthens hate crimes language in state law and creates a work group that will study ways to help law enforcement fight against hate crimes. I am proud of the way the community has stood together to send this clear message. Hate will not survive in a strong community such as ours.”

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