by Leslie Layton
Chico police are investigating a suspect in the June 2 graffiti assault that defaced 10 southwest sites in town with swastikas and racist language.
The man police say is a “potential suspect,” Thomas David Bona, 34, was arrested Wednesday in connection with a separate incident and was booked into Butte County Jail on suspicion of vehicle vandalism and a hate crime. A CPD press release says the man was “hitting at passing vehicles” early Wednesday near East Avenue and Tom Polk Way. Deputy Chief Matt Madden said Bona used a racial slur during an argument with an African-American motorist.
Madden said that Bona is a suspect in the June 2 graffiti assault that police also consider a hate crime. The graffiti was “racially motivated and directed at specific targets, directed at African-Americans,” Madden said in an interview Wednesday. “We take this very seriously; it’s very detrimental to our community.”
Madden said police believe that only “one person was responsible for the graffiti all down the Nord Avenue corridor,” and said that Bona has a “history of this type of behavior.”
Officers have been working to obtain surveillance footage by attempting to contact the corporate offices of Safeway and Walgreens, as well as contacting local businesses and homeowners.
Several submissions to the Documenting Hate database that tracks hate crimes and bias incidents nationwide were made from Chico in connection with the June 2 graffiti assault and with the racist attack on the Mechoopda mural at West Second and Cedar Streets in May. The database is run by the investigative news organization ProPublica, and ChicoSol is a local media partner.
“…not only did they damage the mural by hitting and scratching it they used a black marker pen to put 4 separate swastikas and a message “I got your land b*tch White Power”, said Ali Meders-Knight, a Mechoopda mural artist who gave this reporter permission to quote from her submission to the database.
Meders-Knight was told that at one site during the June 2 graffiti spree someone wrote “F*ck Indians.” She has also pointed out that some of the grafitti markings on the mural were similar to those found during the June tagging.
Madden said he doesn’t know whether the June 2 graffiti is connected to the May 2 attack on the Mechoopda mural. CPD and the University Police Department say they’re in contact with each other to investigate whether there’s a connection between the graffiti spree and recent vandalism at Chico State.
This story was updated today, June 13, 2019, with new information from CPD.