Jewish Summer Camp in Pennsylvania ‘Terrorized’; Five Charged
In three separate episodes earlier this month, three adults and two juveniles caused property damage as they sped dangerously through Camp Bonim in Wayne County in a pickup truck, shouting anti-Semitic epithets and firing paintball guns at campers and staff, District Attorney Janine Edwards said in a press release. The three adults were arrested Wednesday morning and face felony and misdemeanor charges, including ethnic intimidation, terroristic threats and assault.
“These children were terrorized and in fear for their lives by the actions of this group,” Edwards said in the release. “The vicious, cruel and obscene nature of the language hurled at the campers is unspeakable. Luckily none of the children suffered any serious physical injury, however, the emotional damage is immeasurable.”
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A judge arraigned Tyler Spencer, an 18-year-old from Linden, Tenn., and set his bail at $200,000. Spencer is accused of attempting to hit campers as he drove the Ford-350 pickup truck carrying the group. Spencer’s alleged accomplices, Mark Trail, 21, and Cassandra Robertson, 18, both of Wayne County, were held on $20,000 bail. A 17-year-old and a 16-year-old face juvenile court cases.
In the first episode on July 14, Spencer told police that he drove in circles at a high speed to damage several fields on the Bonim campus, according to a police affidavit obtained by ABC News. When he returned with the same group of passengers the next day, Spencer said they ripped the camp’s mailbox out of the ground before driving into the camp.
Police said Mark Trail then yelled racial slurs such as “You f***ing Jews go back where you came from” and “I’m gonna kill you, you f***ing Jews.” During that episode, 18-year-old camper Alan Rosen was struck in the leg by a shot from a paintball gun while walking near the camp’s synagogue, according to the affidavit, filed by Pennsylvania State Trooper John Decker.
At around 2:30 a.m. the next morning, campers saw the group doing “360s” in the camp’s quad area before the truck came chasing after one of them, according to the affidavit. The campers told police the truck only missed them by about 10 feet.
“Because of what goes on out there in the world, people get scared quick, and that’s what they were trying to accomplish,” said Dovid Presser, Camp Bonim’s director.
Though the incidents quickly became the “talk of the camp,” he said, most of the camp’s 300 children, which age from 6 to 20, did not appear terribly concerned for their safety in the days that followed. The camp’s administrators, though, took the incidents very seriously, he said. A caretaker called Honesdale, Pa., police after the group’s first intrusion on July 14, according to the affidavit.
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On July 16, one day after the last incident at Camp Bonim, Spencer was charged with aggravated assault for allegedly driving into a counselor from the camp outside a local Turkey Hill store, breaking his leg. Spencer fled the scene, and was caught later that day by New York state police near Hancock, N.Y.
According to the affidavit, New York state police said the truck matched the description provided by Honesdale, Pa., police of the truck involved in the Camp Bonim crimes and the truck’s occupants admitted to both those crimes and the hit-and-run at the Turkey Hill. Trail and Robertson gave Pennsylvania state police written statements acknowledging their guilt in the incidents at the camp and store.
Presser said the camp community was relieved to learn that the group had been apprehended, and that he was impressed with the way law enforcement handled the case.
“They did whatever they could. We could see right away that they were working on it,” he said. Wayne County is home to more than 30 summer camps, many of them drawing children from around the Northeast. District Attorney Edwards said in a statement to the press that her office “want[s] it known that Wayne County citizens value our camps. We want our camps to be safe.”
The group is also being charged with damaging the grounds of an elementary school in nearby Waymart, Pa.
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