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Cape Coral police chief calls vandalism at Jewish center despicable, but not surprising

Damage caused by a suspected vandal Saturday at the Chabad of Cape Coral.
Chabad of Cape Coral
Special to WGCU
Damage caused by a suspected vandal Saturday at the Chabad of Cape Coral.

Cape Coral police Chief Anthony Sizemore said a weekend incident that saw vandalism committed at a local Jewish center was a "despicable act" that he takes personally, but expressed that such an action was no surprise here.

"This was a despicable act in which an individual ... committed vandalism, and attempted burglary, and struck fear in the hearts of not only the people that were present at the Chabad center, but the Jewish community of Southwest Florida, and the entire community that this, this is one of the unfortunate side effects that you see, when I tell people they ask about crime rate, they ask about certain things," Sizemore said at a press briefing on the vandalism Tuesday morning.

The action the chief was speaking about involved a man throwing bricks at the glass door of the Chabad Jewish Center building on Cape Coral Parkway, and breaking the window of a car parked in the parking lot on Saturday afternoon.

"If I'm being honest, (it) becomes personal when you live here, as we all do," he said, adding that he has known the Chabad leader, Rabbi Yossi, for almost a decade.

"It's a hate crime. Until we can determine different you go in at the highest level. If we're not naïve to the national trends, as I spoke about before the growth in the size of Cape Coral, and we have to treat it as such," he said. "I'm saddened and I'm shocked and I'm outraged that it happened in Cape Coral. But surprised, I'm not, because of those statistics that I gave you. We are large city in a very large state. And to think that we're immune to things that happen on a national scale ... that's just naïve to think that we have a lot of the same societal problems that you see on the national news they happen here. So pretty much anything you could insert into the narrative that's happening nationally does occur here. The key is that we have to be prepared, trained and ready to work hard for the community to do that."

Brandon Sancho

Sizemore said that Cape Coral being the eighth largest city in the third most populous state in the country is positive, but doesn't make it immune to bad actions.

"And there's a lot of wonderful things that come with that. But one of the side effects is that we have a lot of the nation's problems here," the chief said. "And hate crimes are on the rise, particularly attacks on Jewish communities and Jewish centers and places of worship are on the rise. And it happened here. And we need to acknowledge that."

Sizemore said there has extra police visibility at the center during the week and also during service.

"We're working around the clock, because this is a priority case," he said. "I ask that if you have any information to please call 1-800-780-TIPS. That's Crimestoppers. Or (call) a non-emergency number, 239-574-3223. Rabbi Yossi (Labkowski) and his family are valued members of our diverse, vibrant and resilient community. And this disgusting act will not take away from that. Police Department, city staff, elected officials in the community of Cape Coral as a whole stand in solidarity with Chabad. And we stand against any type of hate crime in our community. And I have the full support of the city manager, of the mayor, and of the community. And we will bring justice for this case."

A witness reported the crime and told responding officers that a white male in his 50s wearing a white shirt and tan pants was seen damaging a sign in the parking lot of the center as well as causing the other damage.

Information released by the Cape Coral police identified the alleged suspect as a male, approximately six feet tall and weighing an estimated 200 pounds. He was also described as balding with some grey hair, and wearing glasses.

The witness said that the male was seen leaving the parking lot in a light green, older model Ford Edge with an unknown Florida tag. After leaving the parking lot, the vehicle went in an unknown direction on Cape Coral Parkway.

Anyone with information can call CCPD at (239) 574-3223 or contact them by email at CCPDtips@capecoral.gov

Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling Crimestoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS.

Those reporting tips should use Case Number 23-006123.

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