CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — A teenager is under arrest after the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office said he confessed to racially motivated crimes that included spray painting headstones and displaying a pair of swastikas in a public Champaign park.
Officials said that on Wednesday, law enforcement received a report of someone defacing headstones at St. Mary’s Cemetary, located within the University of Illinois’ Research Park. Sheriff’s Deputies and U of I Police officers responded and found Dominic Koca, a White 18-year-old, at the cemetery. They discovered nine gravesites had been defaced with spray paint depicting swastikas and racial slurs toward Jews and African Americans.
Officials said Koca admitted to the vandalism, adding that his motivation was racially driven. They said he also confessed to displaying a pair of hate symbols the same day at Mattis Park.
Earlier in the day, a swastika was discovered to have been spray painted on a sidewalk and a Nazi flag was hung from a tree. Champaign Police took the lead in the investigation but told WCIA they had no clues as to who or why the symbols were placed at Mattis Park.
Just hours later, a person claiming credit for that display was caught.
Koca was placed under arrest and taken to the Champaign County Jail, where he was booked on charges of vandalism and committing a hate crime. Court records do not indicate that Koca appeared before a judge on Thursday.
In a press release announcing the arrest, Sheriff Dustin Heuerman also addressed a rise in hate-related activity in Champaign County, saying:
“Hate crimes have no place here in Champaign County, and if a person commits a criminal offense with motivation based on race, religion, ancestry, national origin, or sexual orientation of another individual or group of individuals, they will be held accountable for their actions.”