An 18-year-old South Burlington High School graduate is facing a felony unlawful mischief charge for allegedly spray-painting racist graffiti on an athletic field at South Burlington High School on June 6.
Tyler Austin, who graduated in June, was cited Friday to appear on the charge in Vermont Superior Court on August 26. He was released after being cited and remains free until the arraignment.
South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple issued a statement Friday saying the pending charges came after a "lengthy investigation involving numerous interviews, evidence collection and forensic analysis." He did not say specifically what led police to Austin.
Police have been mum on what exactly the graffiti said and who was targeted. "I'm again not repeating nor confirming what was written," Whipple said Friday. The wording will be public record once an affidavit is filed with the court in the next few weeks, he acknowledged.
Hines told Seven Days that he was relieved to hear of the pending charges.
"I guess it is nice to have some sort of, like, closure," Hines said.
Austin is a fellow member of the SBHS class of 2017 and recently graduated, according to Hines. "I don't know him at all," Hines said. "I never really had any sort of interaction with him."
Efforts to reach Austin for comment were not immediately successful.
Whipple said he decided not to pursue hate crime charges after studying Vermont's law. "A hate crime has to have a crime directed at a person and this is a crime directed at property," Whipple said. He added: "As troubling as it is, it doesn't qualify."
Still, Whipple said, the charges are an indication that the community won't tolerate racist displays.
"This racist-based graffiti is not acceptable and we're hoping that this sends a message that it's not acceptable and there are consequences," he said.