An Okanagan family is bewildered after their home was vandalized on Monday evening, an act that’s being described as a hate crime.
The modest Summerland home on Hespler Road was tagged with red spray paint — a Nazi swastika painted on the front of the house — and windows were shattered.
Homeowner Ramesh Lekhi said he and his wife were home when they heard a window being smashed at approximately 10:30 p.m., followed by a second one.
Outside the home, they discovered the graffiti, which then led to calls to family members and police.
On Tuesday, Summerland RCMP said they’ve launched a criminal investigation into the incident.
“Frontline officers attended, and immediately combed the property for suspects and other evidence,” said Summerland RCMP, adding that the residents weren’t harmed but that no witnesses have yet been identified.
Summerland RCMP also said town employees reported early Tuesday similar graffiti on the town’s Memorial Park bandshell stage.
“Investigators believe both incidents of vandalism are connected and have notified the RCMP’s Hate Crime Team, as they continue their criminal investigation to identify the person or persons responsible,” said Const. James Grandy.
Sgt. David Preston said “this kind of hate-motivated vandalism is not often seen in the close-knit community of Summerland.”
“We understand this kind of vandalism can be disturbing to many, and the Summerland RCMP is taking this very seriously.”
Preston added, “at this time, there’s nothing to indicate a concern for public safety.”
A family son, Abhishek Lekhi, said the vandal, or vandals, threw two rocks at the home – one into his parents’ bedroom, the other into a downstairs bedroom – before fleeing.
“It’s definitely heartbreaking,” said Abhishek Lekhi, noting the family, including three siblings, has been living in the home since the late 1980s. “Seeing something like this happen to your home, your safe space, it’s not something you’d ever imagine.”
He added that his mom is still shaken by the incident.
“All three siblings grew up here, went to school here: elementary, middle, senior high school,” said Abhishek Lekhi, noting he’s experienced subtle racism before.
“We’ve been a part of so many different community organizations – volunteer groups, fundraisers, sports teams – we’ve tried integrating ourselves into the community.
“Seeing something like this, it’s devastating.”
He continued, saying “this attack makes us question a lot of things, but the individuals who have been coming all day is definitely reassuring. We’ve had complete strangers come up in tears, saying ‘we want to help you.’
“We’ve had local politicians, we’ve had federal politicians come out, reach out, show their sympathy, saying that this is not what community is about, this is not what Canada stands for.”
Should anyone have information regarding these incidents, you are asked to contact the Summerland RCMP at 250-494-7416 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.