Wayne County house explodes; being investigated as hate crime after racial slurs found painted in area

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WAYNE COUNTY, Ohio -- A house explosion that happened early Wednesday in Wayne County is being investigated as a hate crime after racial slurs were found painted on the garage and nearby vehicles.

According to Wayne County Sheriff Travis Hutchinson, it happened at around 1 a.m. at 6743 Spruce Street in Sterling, which is between West Salem and Rittman. Hutchinson said there was no electricity or gas to the home.

A swastika and racist slurs were painted on the garage, and racial slurs were also painted on neighbor's vehicles.

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Authorities say this is being investigated as intentional because, in addition to the swastika and racial slurs, there was no gas or electrical.

Columbia Gas was at the scene working on the house Tuesday and they reported that they actually smelled gas.

So because of that “suspicious activity," they think it’s intentional. They are still investigating what started it.

Columbia Gas released the following statement to FOX 8:

"Yesterday, Columbia Gas responded to an odor of gas at that address and made the situation safe. We then turned gas off at the meter valve and removed the meter altogether after consulting with the fire department and homeowner. In an effort not to compromise the investigation, we are referring any further questions related to the explosion to local and state authorities. Today, we are performing safety inspections to ensure our facilities weren't compromised by the blast. We'd like to reassure the community that our system is operating normally and safely."

No injuries were reported.

According to authorities, the house caught fire about a month ago, and the residents were staying elsewhere. That fire is also under investigation.

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