The NYPD were called in to investigate the unearthing of forty-two tombstones in Washington cemetery. The corpses buried within it belong primarily to Jews. Authorities are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.
The dismantling of the tombstones maybe a piece of a larger puzzle, as there has been a precipitous rise in a number of hate crimes of an anti-Semitic origin throughout the city. A school in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn recently suffered a bomb scare that came after an unknown perpetrator sent an email to school officials, stating that there were three pipe bombs located within the school. These and similar copycat crimes have spurred local policy makers to rally behind the Jewish community and to be on the offensive against acts of anti-Semitism.
Mayor De Blasio has said of the recent crimes “This is a moment in history, where forces of hate have been unleashed.”
The fallen tombstones were discovered on March 4. Shomrim, the Orthodox Jewish patrol society was called in to investigate the incident. Captain Mark Molinari, the new commanding officer of the police department’s hate crimes unit and Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill where also among those present as the investigation unraveled.
Upon further examination, the police department determined that there was no evidence of vandalism. Councilman David G. Greenfield responded caustically to the NYPD’s official verdict. “Forty-two tombstones, a hole in the fence, and this is only one section….it seems unlikely that would have happened simply by the weather.”
Yet that is precisely what the NYPD told times reporter Michael Watson the cause of the uprooting was. The main clues that determined that the wear and tear of the stones were not due to vandalism but to environmental forces, was the presence of vines along the bases of many of the stones that had become unhinged. The vines, according to the NYPD, could not have appeared in the cemetery recently, but had to have grown about a year prior, well before the purported vandalism could have taken place.
According to the Times, further evidence of there being wear and tear in the tombstones came in the form of “thin layers of dried grass and dirt in their exposed crevices.
Captain Molinari also suggested that the damage may have come from a neighboring delivery truck that regularly makes deliveries to nearby FDR high school.
“A truck going by three feet away from these stones could cause enough vibration to topple a 110-year old stone,” Molinari told the Times.
Much skepticism still remains over what happened. Molinari reflected on this uncertainty. “I can’t confirm that some of them were not pushed over, but we have nothing to indicate that has happened.”
By: Natasha Spyer