MEDFORD — Graffiti discovered recently at two vacant homes made reference to Red Sox star David Ortiz’s emotional, post-Marathon bombing remarks and included anti-Semitic and Irish symbols and hate speech found in April at several locations in Medford and at Tufts University.
Medford police and the Anti-Defamation League offered a $1,000 cash reward Tuesday for information leading to the apprehension of perpetrators of the two incidents, which police believe are connected.
“We believe, more than likely, that this is the work of the same person or persons,” said Police Chief Leo A. Sacco Jr.
“A reward can act as an incentive for people to provide information,” said Robert Trestan, director of the Anti-Defamation League in New England.
Swastikas, a shamrock, and references to the Aryan nation were found April 7 spray-painted on more than two dozen locations in south Medford, including city schools, parks, and a field at Tufts. The incidents occurred on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
On Sept. 24, the same hate speech and symbols were found at two abandoned houses at 541 and 551 Winthrop St., near Medford High School, according to police.
But Sacco said police also found the phrase, “This is our [expletive] city,” the same words used by Ortiz at a pregame ceremony honoring Marathon victims and first responders at Fenway Park on April 20.
The explosions at the finish line killed three people, including Medford native Krystle Campbell, 29, and injured more than 260 others.
Ortiz’s words were intended to galvanize a grieving city, but vandals apparently decided to twist his words into their own, defiant message, Sacco said.
“I don’t know what their mindset was with any of this,” he said. “We believe it’s a comment that refers to the Marathon bombings. . . . It’s safe to say that he [Ortiz] wasn’t quoting them.”
The phrase leads police to believe that vandals struck the two homes in springtime, but the markings were not discovered until September. “They’re really the only way we can kind of put a time on this,” Sacco said. “It probably happened in late April or early May.”
It was discovered when gas utility workers were sent to the properties to shut off services. They found swastikas, painted in red, on a porch door, and the exterior of one home. They also smelled a foul stench in the area, later determined to be from a decomposing possum.
Medford police investigators found anti-Semitic and white power slogans scrawled in the kitchen and living room area of the second home, according to the police report.
There was no evidence of anyone squatting in the homes, which have been vacant since their elderly owners moved away several years ago, Sacco said. “There was no sign of a camp or any partying,” Sacco said. “We don’t know why these properties were hit.”
Mayor Michael J. McGlynn is puzzled by the racist markings, which were found on opposite ends of a city of nearly 58,000 residents.
“We’re still trying to understand why this would happen here,” McGlynn said in an interview. “Medford is such a welcoming, diverse community. To have these two, similar incidents happen, is really bothersome. There is absolutely no place for them here.”
Police consider each incident a hate crime and are again appealing to the public for help to identify a perpetrator.
“We really need people to think back to April, to see if they can recall anything suspicious or unusual,” Sacco said.
Fliers with pictures from each incident and annoucing the cash reward will be circulated to homes and businesses in the area of each incident. Tufts police are assisting with the investigation, the university said in a statement.
The ADL has tapped a national fund to pay the $1,000 reward, which will be paid only if the information leads police to a suspect.
“Somebody knows what happened, and somebody knows who is responsible,” Trestan said. “Law enforcement needs that information.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Medford police at 781-395-1212.