Airman 1st Class Justin Rutledge said he was shocked a little more than a week ago when racist graffiti was spray painted on the garage door of his duplex home on Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.
Video of the graffiti that has been shared on social media shows the swastikas and racial epithets that were crudely drawn on the garage door with black spray paint. Rutledge said his neighbor’s garage door and car were also vandalized.
Rutledge, who is assigned to the 5th Security Forces Squadron, said he was instantly afraid for his wife and 4-month-old son.
So far, no one has been arrested for the April 1 incident, said Maj. Jahnelle Haag, a spokeswoman for the 5th Bomb Wing.
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“Our 5th Security Forces Squadron responded to the incident immediately, and the investigation is underway,” Haag told Task & Purpose. “They are including experts from the Ward County Sheriff’s Department and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation to cover all bases on crime scene analysis.”
There have been no additional incidents of racist graffiti since Rutledge and his neighbor’s homes were vandalized, Haag said.
The incident at Minot comes after a video shared on social media last month showed high school students at Spangdalhem Air Base, Germany, shouting racial slurs, prompting an investigation.
There have also been other incidents in recent years that initially appeared to be racially motivated but turned out not to be. An Air Force investigation last year found that an airman had faked texts that he claimed showed him being told that he was not promoted because he was black.
On Tuesday, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass issued a statement about the racist graffiti incident at Minot that made clear the Air Force does not tolerate racism in any form.
“This incident is absolutely not reflective of who we are as airmen, and what we tolerate as an Air Force,” Bass said in the statement to Task & Purpose. “I appreciate the quick response from the Minot AFB and Global Strike leadership teams, and am confident they will work to identify and hold those responsible accountable.”
Col Dan Hoadley, commander of the 5th Bomb Wing, said that the 5th Security Forces Squadron is continuing to investigate the April 1 incident at Minot “so that appropriate action can be taken.”
Hoadley also said he has personally reached out to the families affected by the racist graffiti to make sure they have what they need.
“Let me be abundantly clear that Minot Air Force Base has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind,” Hoadley said in a statement. “This type of behavior is abhorrent, unacceptable, and does not align with our Air Force core values. We as Team Minot expect all of our members to treat each other with dignity and respect.”
Rutledge and his family are now in the process of moving to a new home, he said. The graffiti has also been painted over and Minot’s installation commander gave Rutledge and his family a new garage door, he said.
“We’re safe,” Rutledge said on Tuesday, “And we are doing what we can to figure out how this happened, why it happened.”
UPDATE: 04/11/2023; this story was updated with a statement from Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass.
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