Unanswered questions in property damage caseA car belonging to a Two Harbors resident was reported to have been vandalized twice over the course of three days last week. The car’s owner, who didn’t want to talk to the Lake County News Chronicle fearing retaliation, reported the damage to the Two Harbors Police Department. The report was investigated over the weekend.
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
A car belonging to a Two Harbors resident was reported to have been vandalized twice over the course of three days last week. The car’s owner, who didn’t want to talk to the Lake County News Chronicle fearing retaliation, reported the damage to the Two Harbors Police Department. The report was investigated over the weekend.
The car’s owner rents an apartment from Michelle and L.J. Ronning who, just days before the first damage was done to the car, had placed a Vote No sign in the tenant’s yard. Michelle Ronning is concerned that there is a connection.
The Vote No signs are intended to encourage Minnesotans to vote against the proposed marriage amendment. The amendment would limit marriage to one man and one woman—excluding gay and lesbian couples. The issue has been debated throughout the state and in letters to the editor of the News-Chronicle.
Ronning, who is opposed to the amendment, didn’t originally plan to put signs in the yards of any of the properties she and her husband own, but a trip to the Twin Cities changed her mind, she said.
“The signs were everywhere down there. I thought, ‘what do I have to be afraid of--so what if someone takes the sign,’” said Ronning, so she got a couple of signs and placed them in the yards of two of her properties. She said the sign quickly disappeared from one and the car was damaged near the sign in the other.
“When I put the signs in the yards I told the tenants to let me know if there was any problem or if the sign disappeared,” she said. One tenant called and told Ronning about the damage done to the car, which included broken windows and damage to its body. The cost to repair the vehicle has been estimated at $3200, she said.
“The thing is, they got the wrong person. The tenant cares about this issue, but didn’t put up the sign,” she added. Ronning said she thinks there may be a connection between the sign and the damage to the car.
“This tenant doesn’t know anyone in town, doesn’t work in town, the tenant just rents here. The car was parked in front of that sign. Neither of the tenants in the building, including the car’s owner thinks it’s a coincidence.” Ronning said.
Last Friday the damage was being investigated by a Two Harbors a Two Harbors police officer who said he planned to talk to people in the area, but was not able to comment on the case. On Monday, Chief Kevin Ruberg said the investigation has not revealed a great deal of information.
“We did some follow up, canvassed the neighborhood and came up at a dead end,” he said.
In a text message to the News-Chronicle, Ronning raised the question as to whether the case may have been a hate crime, but Ruberg said the police department has found nothing to indicate a motive one way or the other.
“We don’t have any evidence that it is or that it is not, typically we’d find some evidence,” Ruberg said, as would be the case if a derogatory epithet had been scratched into the car’s paint, or there had been other evidence that the car’s owner had been specifically targeted. That was not the case in this incident. Ruberg said the incident is currently damage to property case unless more information comes to light.
At the very least, Ronning says she does not believe these were random acts. “This was a violent act of vandalism. I don’t think it was a coincidence.”
Since her tenant’s car was damaged, Ronning said she has considered taking the sign out of the yard, but the tenants and the neighbors don’t want her to remove it, because they don’t want the an act of violence to scare them into silence.
Anyone with information about damage to property case may call the Two Harbors Police Department.