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Vandalism At Naperville Deli Leads To Hate Crime Investigation

CHICAGO (CBS) – Naperville Police are searching for a person who vandalized a popular Jewish deli on Sunday.

As CBS 2's Mai Martinez reports, police say the incident is being investigated as a hate crime.

CBS: What did you think when you first saw the picture?

"Honestly, I couldn't believe it," said Howard Bender, owner of Schmaltz Deli.

Bender is talking about graffiti found outside his Naperville deli.

"I'm in shock," Bender said. "I'm bitter.

Someone spray-painted the message, "free gaza," on the sidewalk outside Schmaltz Deli on Sunday, shortly after it closed at 3 p.m.

deli graffiti
Anti-Semetic graffiti found at Naperville Jewish deli. (Credit: Howard Bender, owner of Schmaltz Deli)

An employee sent Bender a text with a picture of the graffiti.

"I immediately said call the police," Bender said.

"I recognized that it was targeted. I recognized that it was clearly a hate crime."

And Naperville police agree.

"The reason they left it there, obviously painted it there, is because it is a Jewish deli," said Naperville Police Commander Lou Cammiso.

"It's not threatening. It's a political statement, I guess, but because they're Jewish that qualifies."

CBS: It elevated it to a hate crime?

"Yeah, they didn't leave that in front of an Italian restaurant. The left in front of the Jewish restaurant, probably because of their religion," Cmdr. Cammiso said.

Naperville police are now reviewing video from the deli's cameras and others cameras from businesses in the area-- hoping to find an image of the offender.

CBS: Does it help his or her defense if they turn themselves in?

"You know, cooperation always kind of goes a long way with prosecutors and the court," Cmdr. Cammiso said.

Bender said it took him two hours to clean up the graffiti. Now a new message is displayed in the deli's window, just above where the hateful one was: "Hate Has No Home Here."

"We need to stand up against it," Bender said. "We just do. We need to stand together."

Naperville Police told CBS 2 that because it is classified as a hate crime, the person responsible could be charged with a Class 4 felony; that means a fine up to $25,000 and up to 3 years in prison.

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