18-year-old charged with vandalizing Gaithersburg synagogue apologizes for crime

An 18-year-old man has been arrested for vandalizing a Montgomery County synagogue. The man charged with the crime spoke out Wednesday saying he is sorry.

Sebastian Espinoza-Carranza apologized for the April 7th incident at the Shaare Torah Synagogue in the Kentlands area of Gaithersburg where swastikas, "KKK" and other hate-based graffiti were spray-painted on the building's walls.

"I really regret what I did and I'm really sorry," said a tearful Espinoza-Carranza.

He admitted to the crime, but said he is not a bad person.

"I shouldn't have done it," he said. "It's nothing personal, nothing what I've done. I love Jewish people. I have a lot of Jewish friends."

The vandalism caused $1,300 in damage.

Police say the synagogue's security video gave them a good image of the vandals.

They checked security video from surrounding businesses on the night of the attack. A 7-Eleven convenience store's video showed a man in the same clothes as the vandal in the synagogue video. That person in the video turned out to be Espinoza-Carranza.

Congregation members say they are still in pain.

"I just really wanted to be left alone and sit down and cry about it," said Connie Liss, president of the Shaare Torah Synagogue. "I was very disappointed, very sad."

"I use the word heartbroken as a way to describe how I felt when I first saw it," said Ryan Spiegel.

There may be more arrests. Police say they have identified three other juvenile suspects and more charges are possible.

Espinoza-Carranza has been charged with property damage to a religious institution, defacement of religious property and malicious destruction of property over $1,000.

He said he hopes by admitting what he did, he can start to make up for the pain he has caused.

"I only did this as a joke, a really bad joke, a really stupid joke that I've done with my friends," Espinoza-Carranza said. "I really regret it and I will talk to the rabbi and say I'm really sorry for what I've done."

Police say the charges in this case are not technically considered a hate crime, but the members of the congregation will tell you it has had a chilling, yet unifying effect on them.

Espinoza-Carranza is currently free on bond.

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