HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. — A white North Carolina man accused of defacing a memorial honoring Martin Luther King Jr. has been charged with ethnic intimidation, according to authorities.
Heath Justus, 31, was arrested at a park in Hendersonville on April 28 after witnesses spotted him drawing on the image of the civil rights leader, news outlets reported Monday, citing Police Chief Blair Myhand.
Myhand told WLOS-TV that Justus used a permanent marker to scrawl “anti-Semitic depictions” on the memorial, in addition to other symbols and phrases.
The graffiti was “clearly designed to provoke a reaction, and not in a good way,” Myhand said.
The president of the Henderson County branch of the NAACP said she was “alarmed” by the act, adding that she was “just shocked that someone would take the time to deface this monument.”
The graffiti was removed by the city’s public works department, according to a Hendersonville official.
North Carolina law defines ethnic intimidation as threats or assaults on another person, or the damaging or defacing of property because of race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin.
If convicted, the misdemeanor charge carries a maximum sentence of 120 days in jail.
(WATCH: Officials investigating racist rant, gestures caught on video as hate crime)