West Hartford Police continue to investigate vandalism that occurred at 65 LaSalle Road on Jan. 21, 2024 and is asking the public for help identifying a person shown in surveillance photos.
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford Police have been continuing to actively investigate an incident that occurred during the course of a pro-Palestinian rally and protest on Jan. 21, where the exterior walls, windows, and doors of 65 LaSalle Road were vandalized by the spraying of red paint.
Police on Thursday released images “depicting a person of interest,” Capt. Daniel Moffo said, and they are asking the public’s help in identifying the individual whose image (see above and zoomed-in below) was captured from a camera inside the building.
Chief Vernon Riddick told the Town Council on Jan. 23 that police were scouring security footage and continuing to do everything possible to identify the individual(s) who vandalized 65 LaSalle Road during a rally that began at Town Hall on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 21, and was billed as a “New Year for a Free Palestine” event.
The incident involved vandalism to a degree that police would consider beyond just a misdemeanor, and Riddick said the charges they would seek would rise to the level of a felony.
Members of the group initially plastered the windows of Webster Bank and Becker’s Jewelers – the ground floor businesses at 65 LaSalle Road – with posters. Then, in what police said was a calculated move, with members of the group strategically shielding the view of officers who were on the outskirts, the windows and exterior of the building were drenched with bright red paint.
Police were aware of the rally – organized and promoted widely on social media by American Muslims for Palestine Connecticut Chapter, UConn Students for Justice in Palestine, and We Will Return Palestine – and Riddick said some of the same groups had already held several events in West Hartford involving chanting and marching, but ended without incident. Police were on the scene, and had drones deployed as well.
Neither Becker’s Jewelers nor Webster Bank appear to have been specifically targeted, Riddick told the Town Council. In a post on Instagram that was later edited, American Muslims for Palestine referred to Eagle Investment Systems, a subsidiary of BNY Mellon, which has an office at 65 LaSalle and which they believed was an investor in Elbit Systems, an Israeli arms manufacturer. Eagle and Elbit were both named in the posters plastered on the windows and the building, and in the chants of protestors.
Rallies, protests, and vigils on public property are permitted – with no need for a permit – and are considered freedom of speech.
Placing flyers on the windows could be considered misdemeanor criminal mischief, but the spraying of the red paint, which was extremely sticky and difficult to remove, was a more serious incident.
The group of roughly 150 to 200 participants began their rally at Town Hall, then marched through Blue Back Square up to Farmington Avenue where they headed west, and then turned left to head south on LaSalle Road. According to Riddick, police investigating the incident believe the group gathered in front of 65 LaSalle, and their blocking of the view of officers who were in the area during the course of the vandalism was “very strategic.”
The incident remains active and ongoing, police said.
Any member of the public who has information related to this investigation is asked to please contact the West Hartford Police Department at 860-523-5203, or via the anonymous tip line 860-570-8969 or email [email protected].
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