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Vandals do extensive damage downtown

Late Friday and early Saturday morning, two Hastings juveniles took a walk through downtown. They left a wake of vandalized property behind them.

Their joy ride quickly came to an end -- by Saturday afternoon, both were identified by police. One was arrested and taken to the juvenile detention center. The other was referred to court. One is 15. The other is 14. Both will be facing felony level charges for criminal damage to property.

The post office was hit the hardest, with swastikas spray painted on 15 of its vehicles.

Just down the street, the front door of the Alternative Learning Center was spray painted. A partial name was on the door, as was a racial epithet that begins with the letter N.

At the bridge construction site, more racial epithets were painted on beams, an excavator, other equipment and vehicles. Swear words, "Weed," and "FTP" were also painted on property. FTP is an acronym for F... The Police. The damage at the bridge site alone was estimated at more than $4,000.

"It was extensive," Hastings Chief of Police Paul Schnell said.

At the nearby St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School, the words "God isn't real" were spray-painted on the side of the building.

As all the calls were coming in, officers at the police department rolled up their sleeves and started making contacts. They took the partial name on the door at the ALC and looked up that person, eventually making contact with her. She didn't know who was involved, but officers didn't stop there.

"They started talking to people and talking to people and talking to people," Schnell said. "Through making contact with a number of people, they ultimately connected it back to two juveniles, and they were ultimately arrested for their involvement in this."

"In addition to the economic loss, one of the most difficult things is how unsettling that type of damage is and the message that is conveyed," Schnell said. "It's disturbing. The economic loss is certainly very real and significant, but the impact on the community is great when it comes to the message of the graffiti.

"I don't know that these young people had an awareness of the impact, but certainly the hope is that they will come to the realization that this is unacceptable and wrong."

Earlier this year, a number of upside-down crosses were spray-painted on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, and officers are trying to determine if there is any connection between the two cases.

The two juveniles are facing felonies because the damage was over $1,000.