A student at the University of Connecticut has been charged with a hate crime after allegedly painting a swastika on a building on the Storrs campus at the beginning of Passover, police said.
Kristopher Pieper, age 21, of Enfield in Hartford County, a junior at UConn, was held overnight in lieu of a $5,000 bond was charged with third-degree intimidation based on bigotry or bias, and third-degree criminal mischief following his arrest on a warrant accusing him of spray-painting the anti-Semitic message on a chemistry building last month.
Police said that on Saturday, March 27, a graduate student on campus alerted officers at UConn that she had seen a swastika on the building, which was across the street from the Hillel House, a center for the Jewish community on UConn’s campus.
A second swastika was later located nearby on the wall of the Austin Building.
Police were able to link Pieper to the graffiti on the chemistry building using video from the campus surveillance system, swipes from Pieper’s ID card, and data from UConn’s WiFi network, which helped in identifying his phone in the area, according to an arrest warrant.
The investigation ultimately led police to Pieper’s dorm room in Wilson Hall, where another swastika was found in a stairwell near his room.
Pieper reportedly first claimed that he was home at the time the graffiti was found, then later admitted to being on campus but denied tagging the building before ultimately admitting to committing the act.
According to reports, while being questioned by police, Pieper provided a 10-page statement that he dubbed an apology, in which he decried certain Jewish religious practices, including circumcision.
“I do not hate Jews, I am critical of them,” he wrote.
UConn President Thomas Katsouleas sent a message to the community on Thursday, April 29 following Pieper’s arrest, though he has declined to say what sanctions the student may face.
“As you may recall, last month there were two incidents in which antisemitic graffiti was spray-painted on the outside of two academic buildings on the Storrs campus, coinciding with the Passover holiday,” he said. "These vile acts were deeply disturbing to our community.
“Every member of our community – students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests – deserves to feel safe and respected at UConn,” Katsouleas continued. “Anyone who violates that principle goes against the values this university exists to uphold.”
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