Front-page article in The Chronicle newspaper on June 30, 2004

Hateful graffiti sparks outrage
Chronicle Staff Writer

CHAPLIN -- A public act of hatred has marred a popular outdoor recreation area.

Sunbathers and fishermen enjoyed a warm, sunny day at Diana's Pool on the Natchaug River Tuesday.

But they had to overcome feelings of anguish when they realized someone spray-painted racist and anti-gay graffiti in large, red letters on upstream-facing rocks along the pool.

"I wish I could just paint over it," one sunbather said as she laid her blanket on a rock next to an anti-black, pro-Ku Klux Klan slogan.

Along with slogans supporting the KKK, whoever painted the rocks wrote "Chaplin boys" and "Windham Tech `04."

Along with expressed hatred for blacks, Hispanics and gays, the tall, red letters also implore to "keep Chaplin white."

Needless to say, whoever painted the graffiti chose derogatory terms other than African-American, Hispanic or gay to describe the groups. The most coarse and offensive of racial epithets were used.

"This must be prosecutable," Melissa Rowe, a Chaplin resident, said Tuesday.

During a break between her two jobs at about 10 a.m. Monday, Rowe went to Diana's Pool and discovered the graffiti. She went back with her partner Christopher Komuves to take pictures at around 2 p.m.

"It's huge," Rowe said. "The referendum that was just voted down," she said, referring the District 11 high school referendum.

"One of them says `Vote No.' It must be some politician's son who thinks he's untouchable. It really looks like they got carried away with themselves and couldn't stop," Rowe said.

Rowe said she was trying to assemble a clean-up crew to either cover over or remove the graffiti from the rocks, "but I want town permission first."

This morning Chaplin First Selectman Stephen "Rusty" Lanzit, said a town public works crew would remove the graffiti soon. "We're not going to let those slogans or sayings exist," he said.

"I'm very disappointed," Lanzit said. "I would like to believe none of it was done by Chaplin residents. We need to educate people on why this type of action is wrong."

He added the Chaplin resident state trooper would "increase patrols, and if we do catch anybody down there who did this, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We won't tolerate this."

Tuesday, a state trooper investigating the scene said it appeared as if those who did the painting had arrived at Diana's Pool by car.

He said graffiti painters on foot usually vandalize everything they pass, but the Diana's Pool graffiti is isolated.

In the days before the District 11 referendum last week, several signs -- both "vote yes" and "vote no" -- were vandalized.

The vandals may have left other clues to their identity or identities. One of the paintings says "RHR 26," another displays a "WT" symbol for Windham Tech, and the letter "P."

Normally, police charge vandals with criminal mischief.

According to state police spokesman Sgt. J. Paul Vance, it would be up to investigators in this case to bring charges of either criminal mischief or hate crimes.

"Once there's a determination of the rhyme and reason for what occurred and why it occurred," Vance said, investigators could decide how to charge those responsible.

"If it's kids not knowing the consequences of their actions it would go one way. If, in fact, there was hate crime involvement, then certainly it can go that way, absolutely," Vance said.

Penalties for hate crimes, a Class D felony, are more severe than reserved for criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.

There were 6 photos printed with the article...

Offensive graffiti was found at Dians's Pool in Chaplin, a popular place for fisherman, boarers and hikers.
Frank Funk photos

These rocks were some of the many vandalized at Diana's Pool in Chaplin.
Christopher Komuves photos