Vandals target Middle Eastern deli in South Salt Lake; police investigate as hate crime

Posted at 6:14 PM, Dec 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-17 20:14:57-05

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah – South Salt Lake Police say vandals targeted a Middle Eastern business, and they consider the act a hate crime.

Owners of Middle Eastern Pastry & Deli, located at 3336 South Main Street, were greeted by a disturbing display Wednesday morning. Someone spray painted swastikas on windows and the door.

“Underneath the swastika was the number 3, I don't know what that indicates,” said Gary Keller, spokesperson for the South Salt Lake Police Department.

Owners point out a striking resemblance to the Hindu symbol known as Om.

Whatever the meaning, police say they are investigating the vandalism as a hate crime.

“Who knows what the reason or the motive behind this is," Keller said. "Something like this instills a lot of fear of crime, that does as much as the crime itself."

Surveillance video shows a man walking up to the building around midnight Wednesday.

He is carrying a can of spray paint. From another camera inside the store, the man is seen vandalizing the front door.

“The owners of the business are pretty much terrified, frightened of this," Keller said. "They don't know why they were picked out of many, many businesses."

The owners didn’t want to talk to FOX 13 on camera, but they say this isn’t the first time they’ve been targeted. They closed their shop earlier this year because of a similar incident. They didn’t report it to police for fear of retaliation. They re-opened just a few weeks ago, only to find themselves victims again.

Police are looking for a suspect described as a bearded man, wearing a dark-colored coat, hoodie, baseball cap and a bandana covering his face. If you have any information about this case, call police at 801-840-4000.

A Salt Lake business reportedly owned by a Muslim was also vandalized that same evening. Unified Police tell FOX 13 the owners have not filed a police report. Until then, investigators don’t know if the two cases are connected.