Anne Arundel County police arrested two 19-year-old men Friday who allegedly strung a noose from a light fixture outside Crofton Middle School.
The noose was discovered around 11 a.m. Thursday, and school officials immediately notified police and had a staff member remove the noose.
During the investigation that ensued, police recovered video surveillance images showing the two men gaining access to the roof of the school early Thursday morning and placing the noose on the light fixture.
Crofton Middle Principal Nuria Williams wrote in a letter to parents that the discovery was “disturbing on many levels … We cannot ignore the intolerant message this act conveys.”
Crofton Middle has a population with 19 percent African-American students, 63 percent white students, 7 percent Asian students and 5 percent Hispanic students.
On Thursday evening, police released four images from the surveillance video to the community. The two suspects — Connor Charles Prout, of Crofton, and John Adam Haverman, of Pasadena — were arrested Friday evening. They were charged with two counts of trespass, and one count each of disturbing school operations and disorderly conduct — disturbing the peace, police said.
After consultation with the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office, police sought a charge of harassment: destruction of property — hate crime, but the warrant issued by the District Court commissioner did not include that charge.
“I am very proud of the hard work our detectives put into solving this case,” Police Chief Timothy Altomare said. “There is no place in our community for the sentiment communicated by such an act, and we will always give 100 percent effort to bring to justice anyone who commits a crime espousing hateful ideology.”
County school spokesman Bob Mosier expressed similar sentiments. “The fact that two suspects were identified and charged less than 24 hours after pictures were released is an incredibly strong statement our community does not tolerate acts of this type,” he said.
“It is a testament to what can happen when schools, police and the community work together.”
He said community feedback expressed thanks for quick distribution of information about the incident from both school officials and the police.
Anne Arundel County Public Schools have dealt with a series of racist incidents in the past year, including a petition that circulated at Arundel High School celebrating white supremacy in January. Last year, swastikas were discovered across Anne Arundel Community College.
Crofton Middle’s noose sighting comes after similar racist incidents on college campuses in the area. A few weeks ago, a noose was found at a fraternity house kitchen at the University of Maryland, College Park. More than a week ago, students found bananas hung in nooses at American University in Washington with racist comments scribbled on them.
Mosier said Crofton Middle had a normal school day Friday with nothing out of the ordinary, other than an increased police presence at the school early in the day.
Williams invited the school community to ask her questions about the incident at a Coffee with the Principal event Saturday morning.
A group called Crofton is Kind, an organization of parents and community members fostering kindness in children and spreading kindness in the community, will be holding an event on Sunday at the school. The public is invited to join the group at 6:30 p.m. to “Chalk the Walk,” marking the sidewalk with positive messages to counter the negativity generated by the noose incident.