(JNS) A student at the University of Connecticut was arrested and charged with a hate crime on Thursday for spray-painting a swastika last month on a campus building.
Kristopher Pieper, 21, was charged with third-degree intimidation based on bigotry or bias and criminal mischief.
On March 27, following Shabbat and on the first night of Passover, the Nazi symbol was found spray-painted on the UConn chemistry building directly across the street from the school’s Hillel. Police launched an investigation and, according to an arrest warrant affidavit, after checking digital sources, including surveillance camera footage, wireless internet records and use of his student access card, Pieper was identified as a person of interest.
The act of vandalism was one of seven antisemitic incidents that took place on UConn’s Storrs campus this academic year, three of which occurred during Passover. Pieper is accused of one of the acts of vandalism: painting a swastika on the north side of the chemistry building facing the the Trachten-Zachs Hillel House.
Police believe the incident Pieper is accused of is related to another act of antisemitic vandalism that occurred three day later, when another swastika and Nazi symbol were discovered spray-painted on the nearby Philip E. Austin Building.
According to the arrest warrant, Pieper initially denied spray-painting the swastika, but later admitted to the crime.
Following his admission, Pieper, who is from Enfield, agreed to provide a statement and apology to UConn’s Hillel and the Jewish community. The 10-page letter of apology he subsequently wrote was also peppered with antisemitic tropes and theories which he asked to read aloud to the officers present.
“We are grateful to UConn Police for their efforts, which, along with our clearly articulated values as an institution, help to demonstrate that hateful acts such as these will never be tolerated at UConn,” UConn president Thomas Katsouleas said in a message to the university.
“Every member of our community — students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests — deserves to feel safe and respected at UConn. Anyone who violates that principle goes against the values this university exists to uphold,” he continued.
Pieper’s arrest comes after UConn Hillel students, dissatisfied with the school administration’s lack of response to the spate of antisemitic acts that have gripped the campus since October of 2020, staged a solidarity gathering on campus on April 5. Attended by 150 students, including leaders of the state’s Jewish community organizations, UConn’s president, and UConn student leaders who vowed to be allies with the university’s Jewish population.
“All of us in the UConn Hillel community that an arrest was made,” said UConn Hillel Director Edina Oestreicher.”We are very appreciative of the efforts of the UConn Police Department to identify a suspect. And so grateful for the leadership and activism of our students that has inspired us all during this challenging year.”
Main Photo: Entrance and sign to the University of Connecticut. Credit: Ken Wolter/Shutterstock.