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Swastikas Scrawled at Youth Club and School

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vandals scrawled a swastika on a west side youth club and set a fire that forced it to close for a day, police said Thursday.

Nearby E.P. Foster Elementary School was also vandalized, with swastikas drawn in fire-extinguisher residue outside the school, according to police.

The racially tinged crime follows two midtown hate crimes last week in which African Americans were apparently targeted.

In one instance, the outline of a cross was burned into a lawn. In the other, a racial slur was painted on a resident’s car.

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The FBI is investigating those crimes.

Ventura police, however, do not believe Thursday’s vandalism at the Boys & Girls Club of Ventura and the elementary school is linked to the midtown incidents.

“We’re going to look into that possibility, but it doesn’t appear so,” Sgt. Ted Prell said.

He said the midtown crimes were directed at specific individuals, while Thursday’s incidents apparently were not.

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Authorities were investigating possible links to Thursday’s vandalism, including skinhead gang members.

Firefighters went to the club on Olive Street about 7 a.m. after an alarm sounded there.

The fire apparently had occurred several hours earlier, but the fire alarm was not immediately set off, officials said. The blaze was quickly put out.

Authorities said vandals set a plexiglass window on fire while scratching a 4-inch-square swastika into a metal window screen.

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The fire melted a large hole in a preschool classroom window, triggering a sprinkler system that flooded the room. Water also seeped into an adjacent indoor basketball court.

Club officials were talking with their insurance company to calculate the cost of the damage.

The club serves about 100 youths a day with preschool, child care, sports and game rooms.

But the club had to turn parents and children away Thursday as workers lugged soggy coloring books, toys and play furniture outside and cleaned up the mess.

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The club is expected to reopen today.

Club Director Jane R. Goldschmidt expressed outrage over the attack.

“It’s very offensive,” she said. “It’s white supremacist, total hatred and stupidity, absolute prejudice.

“My dilemma is that they’re doing this for attention,” Goldschmidt said, adding that she plans to step up security. “I can tell you, we’re going to do some very high-profile prevention here.”

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At the school, oil lines in the engines of two forklifts were cut, spilling the liquid onto the ground.

Meanwhile, fire extinguishers from the lifts were taken off and sprayed on a patch of concrete. Swastikas, as well as lightning bolts, apparently representing Nazi storm troopers, were drawn with the spray. A janitor swept the images away.

The school district will have to reimburse the contractor for the damage, which was still being calculated Thursday, Assistant Supt. Joseph Richards said.

“Personally I’m offended,” he said. “It’s not a fair representation of our community.”

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