MENTOR, Ohio – Police are investigating after three small swastikas were drawn on a headstone at Mentor Cemetery.
A relative of the deceased victim said he first discovered the vandalism after recognizing the headstone in a Snapchat video posted by a friend who works at the cemetery.
Relatives of Thomas Saunders, who died in February, rushed to the cemetery and confirmed the vandalism. The Nazi symbols appeared to be drawn with marker on two crosses on the headstone, as well as its base.
“I consider this a hate crime,” said his wife, Laura. “We don't have this type of crime that exists in this area, but I think we're living in a different time.”
Laura Saunders describes her family as born-again Christians. She said she and her husband chose to have crosses and a Star of David on their headstone out of respect for Israel.
“The Jewish faith is something we honor and respect, and we have supported Israel from the time we became Christians,” she said.
The family reported the incident to Mentor Police, and officers were investigating the incident as a potential hate crime. They questioned an employee at the cemetery Wednesday afternoon.
Police said they did not have reports of other incidents there.
“I don't think that the people that did it even know what they've done,” Saunders said, adding she forgives the person.
“This didn’t happen to my husband. This is just a headstone. But it's everything that he was against,” she said.
Saunders said she hopes the incident leads to more education and understanding, and less hate.
“We need to band together as a community, whether you believe in my faith or not,” she said.
“And say, ‘let's put an end to this. Let's stop the hatred.’”