Three charged with defiling menorah
Three men were arrested Monday for allegedly damaging the menorah placed in Paepcke Park for Hanukkah.Investigators do not believe the incident was a hate crime, according to a news release from the Aspen Police Department. Richard Kemp, 26, and Nathan Goad, 29, both of Basalt, and Levi Bones, 23, of Carbondale, are charged with criminal mischief.”There was no information that we gleaned from them that would indicate that this is a premeditated hate crime,” Aspen police Sgt. Steve Smith said. “The witness stated that they weren’t making any derogatory or anti-Semitic remarks of any type when they were destroying it.”He said the suspects were allegedly first trying to damage the holiday lights around the park’s gazebo. When those efforts failed, Smith said, they turned to the menorah, which is about 6 feet tall.”It sounds like it was basically the product of alcohol-induced immaturity,” he said.Authorities from Aspen, Pitkin County and Snowmass Village responded to the call around 1 a.m. The witness told police that the suspects’ truck was last seen leaving Aspen through the S-curves.A Snowmass police officer pulled the suspects over at Brush Creek Road and Highway 82.”The witness identified the vehicle used by the suspects who fled the scene, and Aspen police officer Dan Davis was able to gather evidence at the traffic stop linking the occupants of the truck to the destruction of the menorah,” the police statement says.Rabbi Mendel Mintz of Aspen’s Jewish Community Center-Chabad expressed disappointment at the desecration.”I didn’t hear about it, I saw it,” he said. “I was driving from my house to my office. I didn’t know if it was vandalized; I just saw it wasn’t standing there. I knew it didn’t just fall [due to] the wind. It was almost 2 feet into the ground.”I was disappointed. I said one of those things like why did it have to happen?”The men are scheduled to appear in court Jan. 25. Two of the suspects met with Mintz on Monday.”We spoke for a few minutes, they apologized, and I felt they were truly sorry for what they did, at least I hope they were,” he said.Investigators took the menorah in as evidence and later gave it to the parks department, which repaired the damage and had it back in place at Paepcke Park last night.”Those guys were amazing,” Mintz said. “They put it back up themselves.”The menorah commemorates the “miracle of light over darkness,” he said. “The message is that a little bit of light can get rid of a lot of darkness.””We had no intention of disrespecting the Jewish community,” Kemp said Monday night. “We just want to apologize.”The menorah, which has been erected for Hanukkah in Aspen for four or five years, according to Mintz, will come down when Hanukkah ends on Wednesday.If there was a positive side to the incident, it was the police, Mintz said.”I was very proud to see how great the police department handled this, how kind they were and sorry they were that it happened. We all agreed: This is not Aspen.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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