Ketchikan police investigate racist, homophobic graffiti at local skate park and trail

A paved bike path
Few traces of the graffiti remained Tuesday on a paved path near Schoenbar Middle School. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

Ketchikan police are investigating racist and homophobic graffiti that appeared around an asphalt trail and local skate park over the weekend. Police said no suspects have been identified.

Barbara Burns was walking on Sunday morning with a friend on the trail near Schoenbar Middle School when she first noticed a drawing of male genitalia spray-painted on the asphalt.

“We laughed. We thought it was funny, you know, kids having fun,” she said. “And then the swastikas started coming up, and then the hate speech, and it just disgusted us.”

Her friend Reonna Durossette posted photos of the drawings and messages to social media on Sunday. They showed symbols and slogans — painted on and around the trail — that were racist, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Semitic and anti-police.

Durossette said some of the writings and drawings hit home.

“I have a lot of family in the LGBTQ community and a lot of Black family members, and it just — I was disgusted,” she said.

Ketchikan Police Department Lt. Andy Berntson said Tuesday officers are investigating.

“We have some information that we’re looking into, but we haven’t been able to identify suspects,” Bernston said.

He said the graffiti was likely drawn Saturday evening or Sunday morning. He said a nearby sunken section of Ketchikan’s skate park was also vandalized.

Berntson said this doesn’t seem like the usual spray paint vandalism that crops up from time to time.

“This seems to be obviously pretty intentional. I don’t know if ‘planned out’ is the right term, but they certainly spent some quality time making some damage,” Berntson said.

He said offensive graffiti like this is rare in Ketchikan. By Sunday evening, the city’s public works department had removed the graffiti with pressure washers.

Similarly “hateful and vulgar” messages appeared near a Juneau middle school last summer.

The perpetrator could face criminal mischief charges, “and then there’s also a financial aspect of repair. And so those are two different areas to look at if we were looking to pursue charges in this case,” Berntson said.

So far, police haven’t said whether the department is investigating the graffiti as a hate crime.

Durossette said the hateful messages she saw don’t reflect the community she knows.

“Most people I know in Ketchikan are loving and open-armed and want to help and see people succeed, not talk down to people like that. That’s gross,” she said.

KPD is taking tips from anyone with information on the origin of the graffiti at 225-CLUE. That’s 907-225-2583.

Editor’s note: KRBD’s Maria Dudzak contributed reporting to this story.