An Arkansas memorial honoring the lives of fallen police officers was defaced Wednesday night, with “Defund the police” sprayed on it, and police are investigating it as a hate crime, Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey said.
“As a 32-year law enforcement professional, I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” Humphrey told reporters during a news conference Thursday morning. “There is zero tolerance for vandalism of any memorial.”
The Little Rock Police Memorial for Fallen Officers, which is located outside of the police department, also had Breonna Taylor’s name scrawled on the sidewalk below it.
Other graffiti on the memorial included the words: “Arrest Starks,” referring to a White police officer, Charles Starks, who was fired after he fatally shot a Black man during a traffic stop.
The victim, Bradley Blackshire, was driving a stolen vehicle, according to detectives.
Starks was later reinstated to the police department after prosecutors declined to file charges against him.
“Last night criminals decided to deface a memorial to officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to the citizens of LR and to the very same freedoms that allow protesters the right to free speech. This despicable act is disrespectful to their families and their memory,” the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police said in a statement.
Arkansas legislators in recent weeks have been grappling with stricter hate crime laws for the state, which is one of three that lack such legal remedies.
The state has seen an uptick in attacks against the police as protests regarding police brutality, particularly against Black people, continue throughout the country.
In a separate incident Wednesday, four patrol vehicles from the North Little Rock Police Department were damaged and one totaled while others were burned and tires slashed elsewhere, police said.