Missouri man who toppled more than 100 headstones at Jewish cemetery gets probation

A Missouri man was sentenced to three years of probation Thursday for toppling more than 100 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis in February 2017, which resulted in $30,000 worth of damages.

Alzado Harris, 35, of Northwoods was also ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution after admitting to police he was drunk, on drugs and angry at a friend when he knocked over about 120 headstones at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, about 9 miles west of St. Louis.

Vice President Pence visited the cemetery shortly after the crime, which happened during a time when Jewish organizations around the country were receiving bomb threats, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

Prosecutors said Thursday there was no evidence suggesting Harris’ actions were anti-Semitic in nature. Statistics released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) indicted a nearly 60 percent rise in anti-Semitism in the United States in 2017.

FIFTY-NINE GRAVESTONES VANDALIZED AT MASSACHUSETTS JEWISH CEMETERY

“There is no evidence to indicate the incident was racially, ethnically or religiously motivated,” University City police said in a statement shortly after Harris’ arrest in 2017. Harris was linked to the crime through DNA found on a discarded jacket. The DNA matched a sample Harris provided in the investigation of another burglary.

Harris, who was found guilty of felony institutional vandalism, was not charged with bias or hate crime. Other than probation and paying a fine, he also must work full time, take an anger management course, and not contact the victim, according to court records.

The number of anti-Semitic attacks, including physical assaults, vandalism, and attacks on Jewish institutions, rose by 57 percent from 2016 to 2017, the ADL reported. The ADL, which is an international Jewish non-governmental organization based in the U.S., cited 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents across the country in 2017, compared to 1,267 incidents in 2016.

Eric Greitens, who is Jewish and was Missouri’s governor at the time of the incident, spent time volunteering with members of his staff at Chesed Shel Emeth to clean up the damaged headstones. The local Jewish Federation also donated $250,000 for upgraded security measures, including cameras, lighting and higher fencing at Chesed Shel Emeth and other Jewish cemeteries in the area.

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Activists Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi raised more than $162,000 through a crowdfunding campaign that contributed to damage repairs at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, two other vandalized U.S. Jewish cemeteries and a vandalized synagogue, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery was rededicated in August 2017.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.