AVONDALE, AZ — Avondale police say an 18-year-old man has been arrested following the vandalism of several vehicles with derogatory words and images.
Benjamin Liang was arrested Wednesday, officials say.
Liang reportedly admitted to spray-painting derogatory words and imagery on several vehicles between Jan. 27 and Jan. 31, 2022.
He was booked into jail on criminal damage, disorderly conduct, and trespassing charges.
“It was a random thing, but at the time it didn’t seem random to myself and my family,” said Ron Cross on Thursday.
Cross was one of four people who had hateful words and symbols spray-painted on his vehicle. Last Friday, his Chevy Colorado had a racial slur, a Nazi symbol, and another word that isn’t safe for TV painted across his truck.
The paint came right off after it was power washed which, he said, didn’t cost him anything – except for the humiliation of driving his truck through town to get the hateful words off.
"I drove on the right side of the road so nobody could see it because it was awful,” said Cross.
Jennifer Falco, who lives near Cross, said she feels Liang should be charged with a hate crime.
"He needs to take some course,” she said. “Maybe talking to the people he vandalized and formally apologizing.”
Avondale police told us they did contact the Maricopa County Attorney's office about possible hate crime charges, but investigators were told this vandalism didn't meet Arizona statutory requirements.
Police said because the victims were able to wash the paint off their car, there wasn’t any financial loss so the suspected vandal was only hit with misdemeanor charges.
The state could possibly enhance a sentence down the line due to possible motivations like race, religion, or disability.
“Forgiveness was there right after it happened, just remind them, there's consequences for our actions,” said Cross.