[symple_googlemap title=”Long Beach hate crime” location=”300 block of Euclid Avenue, Long Beach, CA” height=”300″ zoom=”16″]

Long Beach Police Thursday were looking for whomever spray-painted the word “illegal” on a van owned by a man of Mexican-Jewish ancestry who said his family has been in this country for several generations.

“I never really felt like that before, like I don’t belong,” said the van’s owner.

The crime occurred over the weekend while the vehicle was parked in the 300 block of Euclid Avenue, said Marlene Arrona of the Long Beach Police Department. A banner sign a couple of blocks away, in the 300 block of Termino Avenue, also was spray-painted with the word “illegal,” Arrona said.

“The investigation remains ongoing and a motive is yet to be determined,” she said.

The van’s owner, Joe Solis, told the Long Beach Press-Telegram that a neighbor alerted him to the vandalism Sunday morning, and he thinks someone must have scrawled the message on his bright yellow Volkswagen bus while it was parked in front of his house Saturday night.

Solis, who is Mexican and Jewish, said the racial implication of the spray-painted message didn’t hit him right away. His first thought was to double-check that his van was parked legally.

“I didn’t understand it at first because it said `illegal’ on it and I couldn’t put two and two together,” he told the newspaper.

Solis said his family members have been born and raised in the United States for six generations.

It wasn’t until his mother-in-law said she thought the graffiti was a hate crime that Solis realized someone could be targeting him for his Mexican heritage.

Police haven’t determined a motive for the vandalism but said it was possible that the crime was “bias motivated.”

Long Beach resident Michael Zarghami said he was surprised by the graffiti. He and a roommate were driving past Solis’ house Tuesday when they saw the vandalized van and felt compelled to stop and find out what had happened.

“I think she and I were just kind of floored at what we saw,” Zarghami said.

The two didn’t expect to see a message apparently targeting someone for his race in a city as diverse as Long Beach, he said.

Zarghami and Solis both pointed to the tense political climate as a possible motivating factor for the graffiti.

But Solis said his community has rallied around him since the graffiti appeared.

When he took his van to a shop to have the word removed, the service was performed for free, Solis said. He also got a note on his home’s front door saying “We love you in our neighborhood.”

Police asked that anyone with information about the vandalism call detectives at (562) 570-7250, or Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.

—City News Service

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