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Racist vandal strikes again

Pastor Fannie Dean reaches toward the broken thrift store window and picks up the head of a statue she has loved for 24 years. A vandal possibly motivated by hate decapitated the statue of an African mother holding a baby. - Jim Larsen / Whidbey News-Times
Pastor Fannie Dean reaches toward the broken thrift store window and picks up the head of a statue she has loved for 24 years. A vandal possibly motivated by hate decapitated the statue of an African mother holding a baby.
— image credit: Jim Larsen / Whidbey News-Times

The head of a statue of an African mother was ripped off Wednesday night in the latest in a series of vandalism incidents at a thrift store owned by an African-American church in Oak Harbor.

The vandal broke the front window of Oak Harbor Thrift, reached inside and either with his hand or some other instrument decapitated the statue of a woman holding a baby. Other black figures were knocked from the window ledge but appeared not to be damaged.

Pastor Fannie Dean was involved in a meeting at her Unity Fellowship church just down the road when a deputy walked in Thursday night around 8:30 p.m. He told her what had happened and expressed his sorrow.

“I’ve had this statue 24 years,” Dean said through teary eyes as she reached for the statue’s head Wednesday morning. “It’s a symbol I’ve always kept in the corner.”

The statue was not for sale, it was just something Dean felt sent a message of love. Just above the now-beheaded statue is a framed portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It was the first incident at the thrift store since July when another window was broken and Dean started finding threatening notes signed by “KKK,” an apparent reference to the Ku Klux Klan.

Parishioner Grace Schiffman has no doubt that the latest attack was racially motivated. “They had to reach in and intentionally decapitate that statue,” she said.

Nothing appeared to be stolen from the thrift store, located in a shopping center near the corner of Goldie and Ault Field roads.

Island County Undersheriff Kelly Mauck said investigators may have something to work with in this case. The witness who reported the incident heard the sound of shattering glass and saw a person running. A vehicle was seen leaving the area, but it might just have been a customer at a nearby restaurant or pub.

“It’s a dark-colored pickup with a canopy,” Mauck said. “It looks like we have something to follow up on, it’s vague, but better than nothing.”

He acknowledged deputies may be investigating a hate crime, which can carry stiffer penalties than a crime not motivated by race, color or religion. “It could be malicious harassment,” he said. “That’s something you have to investigate. Is this a hate crime? That’s where you start.”

Pastor Dean said the incident marred a joyous week at the church, whose members are celebrating the issuing of a city building permit for their own building after a long wait of “four years, two months and 26 days.”

She has no idea why someone would want to vandalize the church thrift store and leave hateful messages. “Why me?” she asked. “I love Jesus!” Anyone with information about the incident should call 911.

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