JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville Beach police officer's personal vehicles were targeted by vandals who spray-painted a message of racial hate across the side of the officer's pickup truck and profanity on his wife's car, authorities said.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office report described it as a hate crime.
"I felt violated. I felt disrespected, upset, especially since, you know, your home is your sanctuary," the officer, who asked not to be identified for safety reasons, told News4Jax on Friday.
The Sheriff's Office said it happened about 4 a.m. Sunday in the area of San Pablo Road and Atlantic Boulevard. The officer said he had just returned home from work when he noticed his truck's back lights were flashing on and off. When he walked downstairs to check it out, he said, his heart dropped.
"I walked all the way over to the truck, then I saw the message that they left and then I see the smoke coming out of the window of the Charger," the officer said. "That's when I got on the phone and called the fire department and the Sheriff's Office."
The officer shared photos with News4Jax of the damaged Dodge Ram and Dodge Charger, showing windows smashed in and slurs spray-painted across them. The officer said the vandals tried lighting the vehicles on fire from the floorboards. The pedals were melted to the floor.
"Talked to the fire department and they said since the fire didn't get enough oxygen to flare up, it kind of dwindled itself away," he said.
Photos show racial tags written in bold across the doors, as well as a derogatory slang word for police.
"It's 2019. This is the time where we all need each other, no matter what race, color, creed," the officer said. "And to sit there and continue to look at the message on my vehicles, it's disheartening."
With more than a decade in law enforcement, the officer said he's experienced slurs and verbal threats, but never something like this.
He has a message for whoever is responsible.
"Despite the hatred that they have for me, whether the color of my skin or the profession I've chose, even though I feel disrespected and violated, I still lay my life on the line for them," the officer said. "That's the oath I took and I take pride in that oath."
The officer said he doesn't know if the cars can be repaired and they may be totaled. The police report lists the dollar loss for motor vehicle arson at $80,000.
Brothers Before Others, a nonprofit made up of active and retired law enforcement, is raising money to pay for the damage. As of Friday afternoon, it had raised about $3,500. Click here to learn more about that effort.
The Jacksonville chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police said Willard's BBQ Junction posted a $500 reward for information that leads to an arrest, and future donations will be given to First Coast Crime Stoppers to go toward the reward.
The Sheriff's Office is investigating the incident as arson and criminal mischief. Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or email JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for the reward, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS (8477).
Thank you Willard's BBQ Junction for posting a $500 reward for information that leads to the capture of the coward that...Posted by Fraternal Order of Police Jacksonville, FL Lodge 5-30 on Friday, July 26, 2019