The unoccupied home of an interracial couple in Ohio exploded early on Wednesday, and officials found a misshapen swastika and a misspelt anti-black slur painted on their garage.
An incident in Sterling, Ohio is being investigated as a possible hate crime by the police, the FBI and other agencies, according to Capt. Doug Hunter of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.
An explosion was reported by a neighbour around 12.40am on Wednesday.
The couple had been staying at a hotel nearby as they renovated their home after an electrical fire on 3 July.
“The entire house was engulfed,” Mr Hunter said.
The couple’s home in rural Sterling, about 25 miles southwest of Akron, Ohio, was the last house on a dead-end street, Mr Hunter said.
A neighbour’s garage and vehicles had also been spray-painted, but there were no discernible words on them, he said, adding that authorities were not aware of any security cameras that might have caught the vandalism.
One of the homeowners, Angela Frase, told reporters that she had lived there with her husband for 23 years without any major problems. She is black and he is white. When a reporter asked what was going through her head, she answered, “Disbelief, that there’s still this much hatred in America.”
“We decided that whatever happens, we’re not rebuilding here,” she said. “We’re not coming back. We’re done.”
Mr Hunter said that on Tuesday morning, workers who were renovating the home called the Fire Department to report that the stove had been left on, filling the house with gas. In response, the local utility had shut off the gas. The electricity had already been shut off.
Ms Frase said that investigators had told her it was possible that an intruder sparked the explosion with a cigarette — and that whoever was responsible died in the fire.
The Frases could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.
There were no suspects as of Wednesday afternoon, Mr Hunter said.
The Blue Ribbon Arson Committee was offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.
By Karen Zraick © 2019 The New York Times