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Press Release

Man Charged With Damaging Religious Property

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Michigan

Suspect Painted Nazi Symbols on Jewish House of Worship

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten today charged Jiafeng Chen, 27, with damaging religious property. The Information charges that in November 2023, Chen spray-painted swastikas on the Chabad House of Kalamazoo. A prominent menorah in front of the house was also defaced. The menorah is a seven-branched candelabrum historically associated with the Jewish faith.

          “Every faith community in this country has the right to gather and worship free from intimidation,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “Defacing religious property is not mere vandalism. It’s an attack on a constitutional right that tries to tell certain people they’re not welcome in the community. We will continue to work with our partners to prevent these crimes and hold those who commit them swiftly accountable.”

          The Information alleges that Chen vandalized the house because of the Jewish characteristics of individuals associated with it. The Chabad organization conducts religious, cultural and community activities at the house, including Jewish religious services.

          “This single incident created confusion, fear, and intimidation in our community,” said Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief David Boysen. “We are thankful to have such dedicated officers, like Detective Stolsonburg, who put countless hours into this investigation. Only due to the continued partnerships and support of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan, the FBI, and the Task Force Officer’s position, were we able to see successful charges in this investigation.”

          “People of all faiths should not live in fear because of the religion they choose to practice,” said Cheyvoryea Gibson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners have remained vocal advocates of protecting all places of worship and are committed to removing those from our communities who resort to bias-motivated violence.”

          The charge in an information is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.


Updated March 27, 2024

Civil Rights
Hate Crimes
Domestic Terrorism