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Man admits to vandalizing Jewish cemetery in University City

The estimated damage is over $30,000.
Credit: U City PD

UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. – A 34-year-old Florissant man has been charged with vandalizing over 100 headstones at a historic Jewish cemetery.

Alzado M. Harris has been charged with one count of felony institutional vandalism after toppling over headstones at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery last February.

According to court documents, Harris confessed to going to the cemetery to topple over the gravestones. The estimated damage is over $30,000. He was charged with institutional vandalism in St. Louis County.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch said Harris was arrested and jailed for an unrelated crime. When he was sent to jail, his DNA was put into a database.

Earlier this month, his DNA matched DNA found on a jacket left at the scene of the crime.

When he was being questioned by University City Police, Harris said he acted alone and was mad over a personal matter and under the influence of drugs and alcohol when he knocked over the headstones. McCulloch said they do not believe the incident had to do with anti-Semitism.

The University City Police Captain Fredrick Lemons said the headstones were toppled in one night in February of 2017. Local and federal authorities have been investigating the case since last year.

Harris is being held on a $20,000 bond.

The Anti-Defamation League released the statement in response to the arrest:

“ADL was waiting to learn whether or not the case would be prosecuted as a hate crime, which requires evidence of motivation that Harris chose the cemetery intentionally because it was a Jewish one and he wanted to target Jews. It appears that such motivation is not present. Harris was apparently angry at a friend and alcohol and drug use fueled his remarkable rampage at the cemetery the night in question. While it won’t be prosecuted as a hate crime, there is no question that at the time it certainly felt hateful to the Jewish community, both in St. Louis and far beyond. While we waited on the investigation, some seriously impressive community building and interfaith expressions of support came from all over the world, including crowdfunding by the Muslim community and engagement with interfaith friends in St. Louis and globally; they understood the emotional impact, especially for the families who experienced damage to the headstones of their loved ones.”

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