For several weeks, Souheir Eltatawy remained in fear because an unknown culprit sprayed a swastika and hateful message toward Arabs onto the garage door of her home in Sylvania Township.
“We were scared when this happened, and we didn’t know why, or who did it. There is no reason to do this on someone’s garage door,” said Ms. Eltatawy, 54.
But the family’s ethnicity doesn’t appear to be the cause of the vandalism, according to Sylvania Township police. Instead, officers say Osama Nazzal, 28, spray-painted the message because of a perceived slight by Ms. Eltatawy’s daughter at the University of Toledo’s library.
Mr. Nazzal is charged with criminal damage after police say he vandalized a residence Jan. 10 in the 7000 block of Cinnamon Teal Court with a vulgarity against those of Arab descent. The message was discovered Jan. 10. He is accused of also spray painting the family’s mailbox and car license plate.
According to the incident report, Mr. Nazzal told police that the day before the vandalizing incident, he saw Ms. Eltatawy’s daughter, Malak Ayache, smiling and “snickering” at him. He also described her and her friends as “cliquish.”
In response, he told police he felt “paranoid and threatened,” by Ms. Ayache. He then looked up her address, grabbed spray paint from his garage, and drove to Ms. Eltatawy’s house to spray paint the property.
After the graffiti was discovered, Ms. Ayache told police about the UT library incident and said Mr. Nazzal stared at her and was following her and her friends.
A man who answered the phone at a listed number for Mr. Nazzal hung up on a reporter. He did not answer a follow-up call.
Mr. Nazzal received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology in 2011 and a Masters of public health degree in 2014 from the University of Toledo.
Ms. Eltatawy’s vandalized garage has become a rallying point for supporters in Sylvania Township and the surrounding area. Ms. Ayache painted over the vandalism with a new one that read, “Toledo [heart]’s Arabs” that drew support on social media.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo condemned the vandalism. An area firm run by family friends replaced their garage door.
Mrs. Eltatawy came to the United States from Lebanon in 1988, and has lived in the neighborhood since 1999.
Julia Shearson, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Cleveland chapter, said she was pleasantly surprised police filed a charge in the vandalism.
“These kind of cases can be generally difficult to prove,” she said.
Mr. Nazzal is scheduled to be arraigned March 1 in Sylvania Municipal Court.
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