Area man faces federal hate crime charges in Carmel synagogue vandalism
CARMEL — An area man is facing the possibility of 10 years in federal prison for allegedly painting hate symbols on a Carmel synagogue.
Nolan Brewer, 20, Cloverdale, was charged Thursday in federal court on criminal complaint with conspiracy to violate civil rights, federal and local officials announced.
In the early-morning hours of July 28, anti-semitic symbols — namely two Nazi flags and two Iron Crosses -- were spray-painted on a brick structure of the Congregation Shaarey Tefilla, a Jewish synagogue in Carmel.
Brewer and an unnamed co-conspirator are accused of painting the symbols, as well as setting fire to part of the lawn of the synagogue, possibly through the use of homemade napalm.
Brewer was taken into federal custody on Wednesday after FBI agents, along with state and local law enforcement agencies, served search warrants at the Morgan County home Brewer shares with his mother.
His co-conspirator was also arrested by Carmel Police.
The investigation began on the morning of July 28, after officials from Congregation Shaarey Tefilla contacted police upon finding the vandalism and burned areas, some of which left visible black burn resident on a side of the structure.
Two days after the incident, Carmel Police received a tip linking Brewer to the graffiti and fire.
The FBI and Carmel Police investigated and discovered evidence linking Brewer and a co-conspirator to the Synagogue incident, including surveillance video showing Brewer and his co-conspirator, the day before the incident, purchasing red and black spray paint and bandanas from the Greencastle Walmart store. The man in the surveillance video believed to be Brewer was wearing a German military-style camouflage jacket and seen entering a maroon Chevrolet Impala registered to Brewer’s mother.
Brewer was driving the same car and wearing what appeared to be the same jacket at the time of his arrest.
When the FBI and state and local law enforcement agencies executed the search warrants at Brewer’s residence and vehicle, they found additional evidence of the crime, including the cans of spray paint and items consistent with the burned areas around the structure.
Upon searching Brewer’s phone, agents found pictures of various Nazi paraphernalia, such as Swastikas and Iron Crosses, as well as a picture of the alleged co-conspirator with a black bandana covering part of his/her face.
Investigators also found text messages related to the incident at Congregation Shaarey Tefilla.
Specifically, on July 30, Brewer received a message noting “we made CNN, Fox, IndyStar, WTHR, etc. Mike Pence even tweeted about us.”
According to court records, Brewer admitted to FBI agents to conspiring with another individual to paint the symbols on the structure. He also said they used gasoline and styrofoam to make homemade napalm, which they used to create an “effect” under the Nazi flag.
Court records also note that Brewer and his co-conspirator were trying to get the Jewish people to “back down or something like that.”
Asked if that meant he wanted Jewish people to “get out,” Brewer responded “kind of, maybe.”
In announcing the charges, U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler reiterated the seriousness of the accusations against Brewer.
“Federal civil rights laws protect our rights to worship freely without threats or intimidation,” Minkler said. “Those who choose to deny anyone those rights by spreading hate and bigotry will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of federal law.”
The investigation is ongoing by the FBI and the Carmel Police Department.
“The FBI takes allegations of potential hate crimes very seriously and will not tolerate this type of criminal activity and intimidation directed toward members of our Jewish community,” said Greg Massa, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Indianapolis. “This office, with the assistance of our law enforcement and community partners, will aggressively prosecute those who commit hate crimes of any kind.”
“The Carmel Police Department is proud to have been a part of such a dedicated team that was focused on finding out who vandalized the Congregation Shaarey Tefilla in Carmel. We hope the apprehension of these suspects sends a clear message that hate has no place in Carmel and that anyone who tries to desecrate property or send a hate message in our community will be found and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Carmel Police Chief Jim Barlow said.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Nick Linder and Matthew Rinka. The charge of conspiracy to violate civil rights carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Brewer had his initial appearance hearing Thursday and remains in the custody of the United States Marshal Service. His detention hearing is set for 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 21 before a magistrate judge.