Vandals paint swastikas in Council Bluffs cemetery, damage headstones

Vandals paint swastikas in Council Bluffs cemetery, damage headstones
One of two swastikas painted on the path inside Garner Cemetery sometime Sunday. (World-Herald News Service)

COUNCIL BLUFFS — Garner Township Cemetery was the target of vandalism last weekend, with residents finding two swastikas painted on the paths, while broken beer bottles, damaged headstones and trash littered the graveyard.

The cemetery in the northeast section of Council Bluffs was busy Monday morning as news of the damage spread, with residents coming to check on their loved ones’ resting places.

“I used to dig graves out here. I’ve never seen something like this out here,” said David Osborne as he and his wife, Anita Osborne, came to see if vandals had desecrated the grave of their son, Randy Osborne.

Thankfully, it wasn’t. But the two were not relieved.

“It’s a shame. What a shame,” Anita said of the vandalism.

Nearby, Jackie Shreeves checked on several family members’ graves. She said Garner Cemetery was chosen by her family because it is a peaceful and scenic resting place.

“I’m at a loss for words. It’s the final destination for our family. What gives them the right to mess with this?” she said.

On the paved paths that wind through the cemetery for drivers and walkers, two swastikas in white paint were impossible to miss.

It’s not the first appearance of the hate symbol in the metro area in recent weeks. A swastika was burned into the grass at Memorial Park in Omaha in July. Other neighborhoods in Omaha, like Dundee and Benson, have been the target of racist flyers.

Fascist propaganda has also been left inside neighborhood libraries.

No suspects have been arrested in connection to the Garner Cemetery case as of Monday afternoon. If an arrest is made, the person or persons could face felony charges of criminal mischief if damages are more than $1,000.

Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber said while the swastikas are incredibly offensive, the incident will most likely not involve hate crime statutes.

“In Iowa, a hate crime is against a person or (an individual) person’s property because of their race, religion or ancestry,” Wilber said.

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