Police continue to investigate Lewes lawn vandalism; leaders express support

Delaware State Police are investigating an act of vandalism to a residential front yard in the Wolfe Pointe community in Lewes that was reported Friday. (Submitted photo/Wanda Baskerville)

LEWES — Recent vandalism on Charlotte King and Aimee Wiest’s front lawn has hopefully sparked discussion and renewed awareness of ongoing racial tension and unjust systemic issues nationwide, Ms. King said Tuesday.

After a chemical was apparently used to write the word “Trump” in the grass in front of their Lewes home, Ms. King and Ms. Wiest said they’ve received an outpouring of support from the general public and leaders from local, state and federal levels.

The incident was reported Friday at approximately 12:39 p.m. in the 36000 block of Tarpon Drive in the Wolfe Pointe community, Delaware State Police spokeswoman Master Cpl. Heather Pepper said.

While DSP said Monday that the case is not being investigated as a hate crime, Ms. King described it as “today’s version of a cross-burning.”

Ms. King said she believes the matter is connected to what she described as prevalent racist attitudes and behavior nationwide fueled by “all that (President Donald) Trump stands for.

“He has allowed the ugliness to grow and stirred up more racial hatred.”

Prior to the presidential election, a poster supporting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, along with a Black Lives Matter flag, were placed on the property, Ms. Wiest and Ms. King said. The Biden-Harris sign was removed shortly after the election and not present during the act of vandalism, Ms. Wiest said.

Signs reading, “Hate has no home here” and “Enough is enough,” are on the front lawn now, and Ms. King said Tuesday that the BLM flag remains, as well.

And in this moment, Ms. King believes “there’s a good opportunity to bring people together to reach a broader community to say ‘This is not the American way,’” she said.

The conversation begins with a webinar at 1 p.m. Saturday where “community stakeholders will discuss recent incidents in Sussex County and what we can do to bring people together,” according to the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice, which Ms. King chairs. Registration for the event can be done at nohome.eventbrite.com.

According to the organization’s announcement at sdarj.org, invited speakers include U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del.; Seaside Jewish Community Rabbi Beth Cohen; the Rev. George Edwards from Friendship Baptist Church; Lewes Mayor Ted Becker; state Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes; Gail Tarlecki of the Delaware Human Relations Commission; and Michelle Taylor of the United Way of Delaware.

Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long reached out in the wake of the incident and is confirmed to speak Saturday, Ms. King said. Attorney General Kathy Jennings also expressed her support and is tentatively scheduled to participate, she added.

Following the incident, the AG’s office released a statement that read: “The Attorney General holds Charlotte King in high esteem as one of our state’s leading civil rights advocates and a friend to anyone who believes in equality under the law. Vandalism is plainly unlawful and this apparent instance is especially disheartening. The DOJ is coordinating with law enforcement and will proceed appropriately after a full investigation is complete.”

Ms. King said Sen. Lopez has been quite proactive in addressing the matter and was working with landscapers to erase the vandalism this week. Late Monday night, she said Rep. Blunt Rochester called to express her support. She said state Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, has checked in multiple times, as well.

A drive-by event past the home is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday. Cars will gather in the Cape Henlopen High School parking lot, SDARJ spokesman Calvin Jackson said.

Ms. Wiest said she’s been “very heartened, impressed and appreciative of our neighbors and overall community response, along with all the legislators and leaders who have been in contact.”

Ms. King said she’s lived in the neighborhood for 15 to 17 years and never experienced any problems. She and Ms. Wiest said they don’t believe neighbors played a part in the vandalism.

When describing the vandalism as “a cowardly act,” Ms. King said she hoped any still unknown suspect or suspects would be “exposed and found guilty of a crime.” She said she has little hope that any arrest would ever be made, however.

DSP said Monday that the investigation continued and issued a statement that included, in part, that “DSP detectives are currently investigating active leads and a witness canvas was initiated when the complaint was made known to us and is continuing.

“DSP will follow up on and investigate any and all suspect leads this investigation produces. The investigation remains active and ongoing at this time as we continue to work hard to solve this case.”

DSP said anyone with information about the case can contact Troop 7 by calling 644-5020.