Montgomery County police arrest 22-year-old on charges of vandalizing synagogue

Police searched this shack in Olney during their investigation of Ian Jacob Baron this week, according to police and and a neighbor. Baron was charged with vandalizing a nearby synagogue. He told police he is homeless, and has stayed in the shack in the past, according to law enforcement sources.
By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 5, 2010

With a police officer approaching, Ian Baron apparently tried to get out in front of the story early Sunday at a McDonald's in Montgomery County.

"Is it about the synagogue?" the 22-year-old with Nazi tattoos on his arm and chest asked, police said. He went on to explain why his fingerprints would be found on cans of spray paint outside a desecrated synagogue a half-mile away, according to police accounts filed Wednesday.

Baron's explanation didn't wash, said police, who arrested him on three charges related to $15,000 to $20,000 in damage at the B'nai Shalom Synagogue in Olney a week ago. He was being held on $5,000 bond Wednesday.

Baron grew up in Olney, 10 miles north of the Capital Beltway. In recent years, he has shown an affinity for drinking and violence, according to court records, and made no secret of his neo-Nazi views. Officers who worked the Olney area knew him as homeless. He recently was caught drinking Wild Irish Rose wine at a bus stop, and he had been sleeping in a friend's vehicle and in a shack with "Whites Only!" painted on the front door, according to court records and police sources.

Court records show that he has not retained a lawyer in the case. A call to a defense attorney who has represented Baron in the past was not returned Wednesday. Police said Baron was adopted by Jewish parents.

Sometime the night of July 25 or early July 26, anti-Semitic graffiti and swastikas were spray-painted on the synagogue's exterior walls, retaining walls, light posts and parking lot. Also, loose change was scattered near the entrance. Among the markings were "Juden raus," which means "Jews out" in German and was used by Nazis, and "Work will set u free," a reference to a sign that hangs over the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Baron was identified as a suspect early in the case, Montgomery County police officials said.

In May, Baron pleaded guilty to malicious destruction of property, stemming from an incident in a CVS parking lot in which he punched a car windshield, according to police accounts. Baron told an officer that when he gets drunk he can be violent, according to court papers. Two years before, he'd pleaded guilty to second-degree assault after his ex-girlfriend said he choked and punched her, according to records.

Early Sunday morning, Officer Aaron Bachofsky spotted Baron at the McDonald's, according to court records. After the officer approached, Baron told him that he knew about the synagogue incident and didn't do it but that he "could see why people thought he did," Montgomery police Detective J.A. Bates wrote in an arrest affidavit. As for the fingerprints on the spray paint cans, Baron said he'd walked by the synagogue the night of the vandalism, picked up the cans, realized what they'd been used for and threw them down, according to Bates's account.

Baron also had an explanation for any change that may have been found at the door.

"Baron stated that some change may have spilled out of his pockets while he retrieved a knife from his pockets," Bates wrote. "Baron stated that he took the knife out when he saw some unknown suspects running from the area. Ofc. Bachofsky asked Baron if he could describe the suspects. Baron stated he could not."

Baron also is charged with defacing two private properties in the area, accused of painting a swastika on a tree, painting two mailboxes and painting a partial swastika on a driveway, police said.

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