Indiana man arrested in synagogue anti-Semitic vandalism

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (AP) — A 20-year-old man faces a federal charge alleging he and a co-conspirator spray-painted anti-Semitic graffiti and lit fires outside a suburban Indianapolis synagogue, authorities announced Thursday.

Nolan Brewer of Cloverdale, about 30 miles west of Indianapolis, is charged with conspiracy to violate civil rights in the vandalism at Congregation Shaarey Tefilla.

Nazi flags and iron crosses were found spray-painted July 28 on a brick shed outside the synagogue in Carmel, just north of Indianapolis. Several areas of the grass and ground around the shed were also scorched, leaving burn residue on part of the shed.

U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler said Brewer allegedly conspired to intimidate and interfere with the synagogue's use because its congregation is Jewish.

"His intention was not to be a prank," Minkler said. "His intention clearly was serious and that was to impact the people and their right to worship in the place they choose and in the way they choose and he was going to commit a specific crime to send that message."

Brewer remained in U.S. marshals' custody after appearing in court Thursday for an initial hearing. It was unclear if he has an attorney who could speak on his behalf. Brewer faces an Aug. 21 federal detention hearing.

According to court documents, Brewer allegedly made incriminating statements, telling investigators he targeted the synagogue because it was "full of ethnic Jews" and then mentioned Adolf Hitler. He also allegedly said that he and his co-conspirator wanted to send a message to the Jewish people to "back down or something like that."

Minkler said tips from the public led authorities to Brewer and that surveillance footage from a Greencastle Walmart showed Brewer and another person buying red and black spray paint used in the vandalism.

The co-conspirator has also been arrested, but Minkler declined to comment, saying the investigation was ongoing.

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard condemned the vandalism and Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb cited the incident in asking the Legislature days after the attack to pass a hate crimes bill in 2019.

Indiana remains one of only five states without a hate crimes law. GOP Senate leaders killed legislation this year that targeted crimes motivated by bias.

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