Police in Long Beach, Calif., have opened a hate crime investigation after discovering that a local statute of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had been vandalized with racist graffiti.
The Long Beach Police Department rushed to Martin Luther King Jr. Park at around 3 p.m. Friday after receiving reports of "hate/bias-motivated vandalism," police spokesperson Brandon Fahey told NPR.
They found that the front of the King statue had been vandalized with spray paint, which workers from the parks and recreation department were working to scrub clean. The graffiti has since been removed, and the department is investigating the matter as a hate crime.
Police would not confirm the nature of the graffiti, citing an ongoing investigation, but photos on social media show a black swastika spray-painted on the statue's center. Other Nazi-related symbols were painted on the statue's legs.
Police do not have a suspect in custody, the department told NPR, but said in a statement they are committed to bringing the culprit to justice.
"The Long Beach Police Department takes all reports of hate or bias-motivated incidents seriously, and we value the diversity of our Long Beach community and are actively investigating this incident to hold the individual responsible and accountable for their actions," police said.
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia called the graffiti "horrific" in a social media post Monday.
"Over the holiday weekend our MLK statue at King Park was vandalized with horrific graffiti," Garcia's tweet said. "The LBPD are investigating this as a hate crime and we are working to catch whoever committed this awful act."
He continued, "Our MLK statue is a symbol of hope and justice for the community. This hate and desecration has no place in our city."
The park changed its name to honor King following his assassination in 1968. Community members met at the park on Saturday, one day after the vandalism was discovered, to hold a rally promoting peace, the Long Beach Post reported.