UPDATE: Five teenage suspects charged with vandalism of historic Ashburn schoolhouse
© Virginia News GroupFive teenagers were served with juvenile petitions this week in connection with the vandalism of the historic Ashburn Colored School earlier this month, the sheriff's office announced today.
The teenagers, three 16-year-olds from Sterling, a 17-year-old from Sterling and a 16-year-old from Ashburn, were all charged with felony destruction of property and misdemeanor entering the property of another for the purpose of damaging it. The names of the teenagers cannot be released due to the fact they are juveniles.
The vandalism was discovered Oct. 1. Offensive and vulgar graffiti, including swastikas and other racist messages, were spray-painted on three of the building's four sides.
The school, a one-room building, is currently under restoration and has been located in the area for nearly two centuries. The school was built in the 19th century to educate African American children in Northern Virginia.
A review of the investigation with the Office of the Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney determined the case did not meet the legal requirements for a hate crime.
In order for an incident to be labeled a hate crime, a person has to intentionally target an individual and assault them because of their race, religion or sexual orientation, according to Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman.
In addition, a hate crime label applies only when someone defaces a certain property with the intent to intimidate its owner. Since The Ashburn Colored School isn't occupied, the intent isn't there, Plowman said.
The county's top prosecutor also said that although swastikas and the words “White Power” were spray-painted on the property, there were other tags as well that included “brown power,” “I'm with stupid,” “I'm awesome” and drawings of genitalia, that led investigators to believe the incident's purpose was not to specifically target any one group or person.
A motive for the incident has not yet been made public.
Virginia code, Plowman said, calls for a hate crime when symbols like a swastika are placed on certain properties, such as places of worship, schools or community centers. However, he said, there must be proof that the vandalism was done to intimidate a community or the building's owner.
“It's hard to say … that this was done with the intention to intimidate ...” Plowman said.
Following the vandalism, Loudoun residents came out in full force to help restore the school. The Loudoun School for the Gifted were already in the process of a fundraising campaign to renovate the building when the vandalism occurred.
In the days following, several Loudoun politicians donated $1,000 each to the cause and the Redskins Charitable Foundation chipped in $35,000. The goal was to reach $100,000 for the full renovation. Following the vandalism, funds toward the school's restoration reached more than $71,000.