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Man Gets Probation In University City Jewish Cemetery Vandalization

Visitors walk through Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery Tuesday morning to check on the graves of their loved ones. (Feb. 21, 2017)
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
More than 100 headstones were damaged at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in 2017.

A man who confessed to damaging more than 100 headstones at a Jewish cemetery has been sentenced to three years’ probation.

Alzado M. Harris, 35, of St. Louis County, admitted to knocking down more than 100 gravestones at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the state, in February 2017.

Harris faces a suspended sentence of five years in prison if he doesn’t complete his three-year probation. Harris, who was sentenced Thursday, is also required to take an anger-management class, pay restitution of $5,000 and maintain a full-time job. Police matched DNA from Harris with a coat found at the cemetery.

Prosecutors charged Harris with a felony count of institutional vandalism. The case was not prosecuted as a hate crime. Authorities have said Harris was “drunk and mad” at a friend who dropped him off near the cemetery when he initiated the attack.

The incident received national media attention. Both Vice President Mike Pence and former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, spoke at the cemetery in 2017, condemning the act.

"There is no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism," Pence said two years ago following the incident. "I must tell you, the people of Missouri are inspiring the nation by your love and care for this place, for the Jewish community in Missouri, and I want to thank you for that inspiration for showing the world what America is really all about."

More than 700 people gathered at the cemetery in February 2017 to participate in the clean-up effort. A crowdfunding campaign initiated by Muslim Americans raised over $160,000 to help repair the damage done to the cemetery.

The attack occurred as anti-semitic crimes have increased in recent years. FBI data shows anti-semitic crimes spiked more than 35 percent from 2016 to 2017.

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Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.