What the family had thought was their dream home when they bought it in December was now painted with racial slurs and swastikas — both inside and out. “Get out” was spray-painted on an exterior wall. The vandals left a note, too: “Next time it’s going to be fire.”
The Delano home of Latanza Douglas, her husband and their three foster children was burglarized and vandalized Sunday evening. Along with the threatening messages, several electronic gaming systems were stolen, according to the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.
Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Hoffman said the slurs included racially offensive symbols that he declined to describe. The case also could be investigated by federal authorities if the vandalism can be classified as a hate crime, he added.
Now the black family is packing up the multilevel house in the 200 block of 2nd Street SW., ready to move to a community where they can feel more accepted, said Naresh Uppal, whose company built the home and will buy it back from them as they try to start fresh.
“They are packing right now,” Uppal said Thursday afternoon. “They’re having to move and basically start all over again. Which is very, very sad. They weren’t even there for three months.”
Uppal, who is acting as a spokesman for the family, which has requested privacy, has started a GoFundMe campaign on their behalf. He said the couple moved into the home in December with the foster children he described as “at risk.” The children range in age from 9 to 12; two of them are black and the other white.
He said the money raised online at tinyurl.com/zmuuvtf “will be used to alleviate costs associated with moving, as the family no longer feels safe in their home.” The family also has expenses to cover replacing damaged items. More than $17,000 had been pledged as of Thursday night toward a goal of $25,000.
Uppal, who runs Advanced Home Inc., said the family came home to find the slurs and a swastika spray-painted on interior and exterior walls, items stolen or damaged, and trash thrown around. TVs, a new couch and family photos were also spray-painted, said Uppal, who also had rented to Latanza Douglas for many years.
“These kids don’t cause any trouble in school or anything like that,” Uppal said. “The kids are shocked. It’s unfortunate that this is the world we live in.”
Uppal said he’s buying the home back from the Douglas family, a transaction that will cost him tens of thousands of dollars, and is moving them into another home his company has bought. He said the new residence is in a more diverse northwest metro suburb, which he declined to identify.
Others in the community have also reached out to the family, Uppal said. Mayor Dale Graunke visited and through tears asked the family to stay, and the local Lions Club dropped off a new Xbox for the children. Uppal said a pizza place was delivering dinner to them.
Graunke said he met Douglas at the home Wednesday and “let her know this is not Delano. This is a welcoming community.”
He said he asked her to reconsider moving and that “I still would like her to stay and see what we can do to make this work.”
The mayor said he’s lived in Delano for all of his 63 years and “it’s been really tough” to see this happen. “It shouldn’t have to be this way,” he said.
Rep. Joe McDonald, R-Delano, issued a statement that said, “Despicable acts such as this have no place in our society, much less in our very own backyard. It saddens me that bigoted vandalism is causing heartache and upheaval for the Douglas family.”
McDonald said he has lived in Delano for 30 years and has “never seen anything like this. ... We should use this opportunity to come together as a community and show love and kindness to one another.”
Authorities are seeking information that can help them find whoever committed the crimes. The Sheriff’s Office is accepting tips at 763-682-7733. “Our detectives are following up on a couple of leads,” Hoffman said.