Tempe police investigate alleged hate crime against family; suspects caught on camera

Tempe police are investigating an alleged hate crime against a Valley family.
Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 5:33 PM MST
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TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - It’s a nice, quiet Tempe neighborhood that just got hit with a hate crime. Ring surveillance video captured a couple of teenagers walking to the house of a multi-racial family and putting up a “For Sale” sign with some bananas, a racial slur, and the name of the 16-year-old boy who lives there. The incident happened near Warner Road and Rural Road in Tempe around 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 2.

“Saddened, I was very angry that my home and my family had been violated so easily and so randomly and carelessly by someone,” said the homeowner, who did not want to reveal her identity for safety reasons. “I was very angry that it was targeted at a child.” The homeowner told Arizona’s Family that police had identified the suspects, who are both students at local high schools and went to grade school with her son. Both suspects have been bullying her son for months on some video gaming sites and making an assortment of racist comments, the homeowner said.

Mathew Whitaker is friends with the family that was targeted. He said the most disturbing was seeing how brazen the suspects were putting the sign up, smiling and taking pictures, then posting the photos on social media. “The sign elicited all sorts of tropes and images about slavery and ownership, and their behavior signaled the same thing,” said Whitaker. “They actually believed they had some sort of entitlement to be able to do this. What bothered me the most was the boldness of it.”

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods said the incident is being investigated as a hate crime, and the individuals involved must be held accountable. He said he also wants the community to be aware of what happened and serve as a teaching moment for more education and tolerance. “If there isn’t accountability in situations like this, the problem is that it could encourage other people to do copycat-like things,” said Woods. “We don’t want expressions of hate or racism or any kind of bigotry, period.”

The homeowner said she has been in contact with the principals of both schools where the suspects are enrolled. She said that one of them has been expelled from school but is unaware if the other teenager was punished. Both could still face criminal charges.