A 47-year-old Toledo woman pleaded not guilty Monday to “ethnic intimidation” after a house across the street from hers was covered in pro-Trump and anti-black graffiti over the weekend.
Police say the charge is rarely used. Rarer still is the story of how a community woke up Saturday morning to a shocking obscenity — and by evening the city had rallied to condemn and erase all traces of it, while police frog-marched the suspect through her yard in bedroom slippers.
When Monica Davis was called to see what had been done to the Ogden house, the neighbor on the other end couldn’t even describe it.
“He was so distraught he couldn’t tell me what it was,” Davis told the Blade. “He said, ‘I’d just rather send you a picture.’ But I knew what it was.”
Davis had been a real estate agent for 13 years, she told her Facebook viewers after she arrived at the house Saturday morning, as she panned her camera across the yard so the world could see what she saw. “I see this happen all the time,” she said wearily.
Maybe not quite like this, though. The house at 626 Ogden Ave., a red brick two-bedroom home that Davis had hoped to close on next week, had been spray painted in giant white letters just beneath its front picture windows.
Left of the porch: “HAIL TRUMP.”
On the right: “N—–S KEEP OUT.”
(Warning: The video below depicts the slur above, uncensored.)
“Someone got my sign a little bit too,” Davis said, pointing the camera at her paint-splattered photo planted in the grass. “This stuff is happening every single day, and we can’t ignore this stuff.”
No one was occupying the house at the time, according to the Blade. The seller was in financial trouble, Davis told her Facebook Live viewers, and had been counting on the sale to go through.
“I ask you guys to help me make this go viral,” she said. “Help this lady get this off her house.”
People did that, and much more.
Less than three miles away, near the river, Toledo’s annual African American Parade had just kicked off. “Minutes after Ms. Davis’s video was online, community members appeared bearing power hoses to help remove the graffiti,” the Blade wrote.
Among them was a 15-year-old cheer student, Jayla Mitchell, who told the newspaper that “it makes me feel different about the city.”
At least two city council members also showed up, including Peter Ujvagi, who wrote that he had never been more dismayed — or more proud — as he photographed a dozen people blasting “Hail Trump” and “Keep Out” into invisibility.
By early afternoon, the Blade wrote, the mayor and police chief had been briefed on the incident, and a detective and officers were dispatched to Ogden Avenue to find the accused vandal.
As it turned out, this was not very difficult.
A man identified only as Christopher in the police report told officers that he had recorded his neighbor — 47-year-old Patricia Edelen — as she went about the vandalism that morning with no great subterfuge.
“I can see her going across,” he recalled to WTVG. “I can see her shaking a can of spray paint. And we can see this person spraying, we can hear this person spraying, and walking back across. She made multiple trips.”
“It appeared that she was trying to paint some kind of gang sign,” on the front door, between the two messages, police wrote in their report. One of the TV stations called the symbol a swastika.
Christopher told reporters that he’d had “issues” with Edelen in the past, without going into detail. After seeing his video, police went about securing an arrest warrant.
They had the document in hand shortly before sundown, by which time the crowd had departed the vandalized house, leaving behind no trace of the messages.
Across the street, officers banged on the doors and windows of Edelen’s house for several minutes, according to the police report. She didn’t reply, but a few neighbors came by to tell police they had seen her cooking inside before they showed up.
Rather than wait until Sunday, police staked out the block. Edelen eventually stepped out onto her porch, but allegedly fled back inside and locked the screen door when she saw a squad car pull up.
“In hot pursuit, officers forced entry to the enclosed porch door,” police wrote in their report.
In footage aired by WTVG, two uniformed officers simply ripped open a light screen door and walked into the house. Edelen emerged in handcuffs and bedroom slippers. One of the officers locked up her house for Edelen after the arrest, according to the report, and left her key with a jail guard.
While the mayor called the vandalism a “hate crime,” Edelen was booked into jail on misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief and damage, and obstructing a public official.
But she also was charged with “ethnic intimidation.”
A police spokesman told The Washington Post that his department, “fortunately,” rarely has cause to use the latter charge. According to the Ohio State Bar Association, it allows misdemeanors to be upgraded to felonies with harsher punishments, providing “the criminal act was motivated by race, color, religion or national origin.”
Edelen pleaded not guilty to all charge Monday and was held in jail on a $25,000 bond, according to the Blade. It’s unclear whether she has an attorney, and she could not be reached.
Davis couldn’t be reached either to find out how the home sale is going. But her effort to call out what happened to the house was evidently successful. Her Facebook video had been viewed more than a half-million times by Tuesday.