Chicago police have announced felony hate crime charges against a man arrested in connection with a series of antisemitic vandalism incidents at multiple synagogues and schools in the West Rogers Park neighborhood.
Shahid Hussain, 39, is facing four felony hate crime charges and two counts each of defacement and criminal damage to property after he allegedly spray painted swastikas on buildings over the weekend.
“These acts of hate gripped the West Rogers Park community and shocked the city of Chicago,” Police Superintendent David Brown said Tuesday afternoon in a press conference at the Congregation Bnei Ruven synagogue. “We can never, ever downplay hate. We can’t give it any room to hide.”
According to Brown, officers at around 4:30 p.m. Sunday responded to a report of a man spray painting yellow swastikas in an alley. Police soon located a yellow swastika painted on a synagogue in the 2900 block of West Devon Avenue.
Another swastika was then found near the Hanna Sacks Bais Yaakov High School in the 3000 block of West Devon. Brown said police received another call around 6:15 p.m. Sunday of a suspicious person in the 6300 block of North Sacramento Avenue yelling antisemitic slurs and threats.
At this point, officers located and arrested Hussain, who also matched the description of the person responsible for painting the swastikas, according to Brown. Hussain was also allegedly identified as the person responsible for separate criminal damage incidents overnight Saturday at a synagogue in the 2800 block of West North Shore and at a Jewish school in the 3600 block of West Devon.
Even after Hussain’s arrest, antisemitic incidents have continued in the area, Brown said, with a congregant of the Bnei Ruven synagogue being threatened outside its doors Tuesday morning. According to Brown, the CPD is investigating that report.
“This is our home,” Rabbi Baruch Hertz said. “There is no room for hate. There’s no room for antisemitic an no room for any negativity. We will stand together as we’ve always been.”
Hussain had been on parole following forgery and burglary cases in DuPage County, according to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
She explained that in order to charge someone with a hate crime, prosecutors must establish that the motivation for their crime stemmed from the victim’s religious affiliation, race or sexual identification. Foxx said those are typically harder to prove, but in this case, the buildings targeted were each related to the Jewish faith and were defaced using an antisemitic symbol.
“The fact that a swastika was used gives us a firm footing that whomever was responsible for these actions, the intention of using that symbol on these institutions, knew what it was supposed to elicit,” she said.
Hussain appeared in court Tuesday and his bond was set at $250,000. He is due back in court for a hearing Feb. 7.