1 of 7 | Visitors to the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Mo., on Tuesday see headstones damaged after vandals toppled nearly 200 stones in the Jewish cemetery. The cemetery dates to the 1800s. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Police in University City, Mo., launched an investigation into the apparent anti-Semitic vandalism of headstones at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, officials said.
University City Police Department Lt. Fredrick Lemons on Monday said the case could be investigated as a hate crime depending on the results of the investigation, adding that police are looking through surveillance cameras for clues.
More than 100 headstones were damaged after they were knocked over in the incident that occurred Thursday. Police, which were called over the incident on Monday, said there was some organization in the crime, meaning it was not the act of an individual.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens called the incident "a despicable act of what appears to be anti-Semitic vandalism."
"We do not yet know who is responsible, but we do know this: This vandalism was a cowardly act. And we also know that, together, we can meet cowardice with courage," Greitens said in a Facebook post. "Anyone who would seek to divide us through an act of desecration will find instead that they unite us in shared determination. From their pitiful act of ugliness, we can emerge even more powerful in our faith. Whoever did this slipped into a cemetery in secret to break things. We will stand together in the open to rebuild them, stronger."
The investigation at the cemetery is occurring as federal authorities investigate at least 11 calls made to Jewish community centers in seven states on Monday morning warning of hoax bombs on their properties. Each center was evacuated, searched and determined safe. Hoax bomb threats were called in at Jewish centers three times in January.
The White House on Monday denounced the incidents of hate targeting the Jewish community.
"Hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom. The president has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable," White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said.
The White House statement follows President Donald Trump's press conference last week in which he called a Jewish reporter's question about the apparent rise of anti-Semitic threats since his election "very insulting" and told the reporter to sit down before he finished his question.
"So here's the story folks: No. 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life. No. 2, racism. The least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican," Trump said.