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Hotel Security Guard Arrested for Vandalizing Yeshiva's Torah

A hotel security guard was arrested in Tennessee for vandalizing a Torah scroll and other property belonging to a Hebrew academy.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 1/16/2013, 1:43 AM

Torah (illustrative)
Torah (illustrative)
Flash 90

A hotel security guard was arrested in Tennessee for vandalizing a Torah scroll and other property belonging to the Margolin Hebrew Academy of Memphis.

Justin Shawn Baker, 24, an armed guard working for the Maxxguard security firm, was charged with vandalism between $60 and $250,000, which is a Class B felony, after police found  that several Jewish books, musical instruments, electronics and a Torah scroll, as well as several religious venerated items, had been “marked on, torn or otherwise damaged or defiled,” said a police department press release.

“The crime appears to be specifically directed at the objects representing the Jewish faith,” the release said. “The crime was opportunistic in nature and limited to the involvement of Mr. Baker. The motive for the crime is still under investigation.”

After his arrest, Baker provided police with a statement in which he admitted to “knowingly and intentionally vandalizing the religious artifact” in the hotel “because they belonged to the Hebrew Academy and represents (sic) Judaism,” The Jackson Sun reported.

Baker was a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq and received several service medals during his time in the military, said Frankie Lax, a local radio personality and owner of Maxxguard Incorporated.

Approximately 50 high school students and faculty from the school were reportedly spending Shabbat at the motel on their way to a ski trip in the Smoky Mountains.