Winnipeg skyline
Winnipeg skylineiStock

Winnipeg police are searching for a man identified in surveillance footage as the vandal responsible for spray painting hateful graffiti including swastikas on multiple businesses and a church along a main highway last week.

Police said that at least 10 businesses along Pembina Highway, a stretch of road linking downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba with its suburbs, were hit with spray paint between midnight and 4 a.m. on July 22.

According to CTV News, police have not yet found an underlying motive linking the swastikas and hate graffiti to the targeted businesses.

Police have released a surveillance video of the man spray painting a shop window. He appears to be in his twenties or thirties. He has on lime-green shorts, a plaid long sleeved shirt and is wearing a red and white baseball cap backwards. He is carrying a black gym bag with a distinct logo on its side.

The public is being asked for help in identifying the suspect.

Constable Rob Carver told CTV that the businesses appear to have been randomly selected.

"The real concerning nature of this is that the graffiti was swastikas – consistent in all cases," he said. "I think everyone is attuned to how hateful and how dangerous graffiti of this type can be."

The incident is being investigated by the hate crime division of the Winnipeg police force’s major crimes unit.

Carver said that it is currently being looked at as a potential hate crime due to the swastikas.

"When you've got 10 businesses along a major thoroughfare that are all tagged with a swastika, that certainly crosses a threshold where we need to look at it as someone trying to send a hate message – whether or not it is a hate crime is still yet to be determined."

The businesses that were vandalized included a bank, a gift shop, a cafe, a supermarket and a hair salon. A church, a law firm and two medical centers were also defaced.

Some of them were in the same plaza. They were all located on Pembina Highway.

The morning after the stores were hit with the graffiti, shopkeepers who arrived for work were shocked by what they found.

“This is not funny – it’s already hard for businesses – and this is just something (else) on top of everything,” Maryam Nadmeh, owner of the Tehran Cafe, told Global News after spending the morning cleaning the swastikas off her restaurant’s windows and the front sidewalk.

“I really want to know who did it and why they did it,” she said.