BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN Though racist slurs and symbols have been removed from the interior and exterior walls of Latanza Douglas’ home in the 200 block of Second Street Southwest in Delano, the mental images remain.
“Although the repairs have been done on the exterior of the home, and it seems like nothing happened, the images that were on the walls are still in plain site for those that were the victims of the hate crime,” said Naresh Uppal, who is buying back the home he built for the Douglases and helping to relocate them to another community. “The wall doesn’t have any graffiti on it, but you can’t look at it without remembering what was on it.”
Authorities believe the vandalism occurred between the hours of 6 and 8 p.m. March 12.
Not only were walls spray painted, but TVs and family photos, as well, and a note that said, “Next time it’s going to be fire,” was left behind, according to Uppal. In addition to the vandalism, several electronic gaming systems were taken from the home where Douglas lives with her husband, child, and three foster children.
The Wright County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident, and could be joined by federal investigators if the vandalism is officially classified as a hate crime.
Two different rewards are being offered in connection with the case.
Dorrance Leroi Roberts posted a picture of himself with Douglas and wrote, “$5,000 for info on who ran in my mother’s house. Cash. Send p.m. Anonymous. If it leads to who did it, I will bring you the cash personally.”
Uppal is offering a reward of $2,500 for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
Uppal’s company, Advanced Home Inc., also established a gofundme page to cover moving costs, closing costs for the Delano home and the new home, insurance deductibles, and purchasing new personal items to replace those that were damaged or stolen. As of Saturday evening, the campaign had been shared more than 3,000 times and nearly 800 people had pledged more than $30,500, surpassing the $25,000 goal.
Many people added messages of support; just as more than 100 people reacted to a post about the incident on the Delano MN Community Posts Facebook page.
After learning of the incident, Gov. Mark Dayton said, “It’s just horrible, so un-Minnesotan, so illegal, so immoral. I denounce it in the strongest possible terms.”
Dayton welcomed the Douglases to the Governor’s Mansion for lunch Saturday.
“The family met and had lunch with Governor Dayton today at his home,” Uppal wrote on the gofundme page. “While we were unable to take pictures of the family enjoying their time, it was an amazing experience had by all! He was so supportive of the family and seems to be very passionate about raising awareness of the situation.”
Elected officials who represent Delano have also spoken out about the incident.
“Despicable acts such as this have no place in our society, much less in our very own back yard,” Rep. Joe McDonald (R-Delano) said. “It saddens me that bigoted vandalism is causing heartache and upheaval for the Douglas family they are in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.
“We cannot allow hateful conduct committed by extreme outliers to taint Delano’s reputation as the warm, welcoming community we know and love,” McDonald continued. “I have been in town for nearly 30 years and have never seen anything like this. While it will not erase the pain that is felt today, we should use this opportunity to come together as a community and show love and kindness to one another.”
“It is our responsibility to condemn these hateful acts, and show Minnesota that this is not who we are; this is not what we stand for,” Sen. Bruce Anderson (R-Buffalo) added.
He said he does not blame the Douglases for their decision to move, but hopes they will reconsider.
Mayor Dale Graunke visited the Douglases and “shared that these acts in no way represent our community, our values, or our way of life.”
He joined Delano School Board Chair Amy Johnson; Delano United Methodist Church Pastor Matt Sipe, representing the Delano faith communities; and Delano Chamber of Commerce President Mike Nielsen in signing a community statement Friday.
“This racist crime of hate against one of our families will not be tolerated,” a portion of the statement said. “Our hearts are broken as we witness the damage upon this family and our community. This does not represent the values we hold dear or the community we aspire to be.
“We stand together, as Delano United, to take action as a community to address this act of racism and ensure that all our community members know they are welcome,” the statement continued. “The outpouring of support from the community has been what we’d expect supportive, caring, and wanting to take action. This past week, the community has coordinated acts of kindness with regards to this incident, and we are not done.”
The statement stressed that short-term acts show how much the community cares and a long-term commitment to root out hate will enforce the community’s beliefs.
“As leaders of our community, we will be coordinating our actions together in the days, weeks, and months ahead to show support for all our residents,” the statement said. “Additionally, we are embarking on a sustained effort to reinforce education and awareness of issues of inclusivity within our community.”
The statement concluded with, “Our community care. We welcome all. We are Delano United.”
Delano United hosted a candlelight vigil Sunday evening. (Visit photos.delanoheraldjournal.com for photos from the event, and see the March 27 edition of the Delano Herald Journal for coverage of that event.)
The Rev. Billy Russell, of the Black Clergy Speakers Bureau, will speak with Delano High School students Tuesday, April 4, and will present at a community forum at a time and location to be determined.
Sipe said the Delano Area Clergy Ministerium was already working to create a task force to address racial justice in the community after an up tick in race-related incidents in the past few months.
A public meeting regarding that effort will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 25, at Delano City Hall, and anyone seeking more information should contact Sipe at firstname.lastname@example.org or (763) 972-3492.
Uppal said the Douglases appreciate how the community has responded, and are looking forward to a fresh start.
“They’re really grateful for all the generosity and how nice people have been to them, and they’re excited about starting over again and not having to worry about people breaking into their home,” Uppal said.