Trailer Trashed

Tucson police investigate an alleged hate crime at a northside mobile-home park.

The trailer's walls, counters, appliances and ceiling are covered in black spray paint, swastikas and the words "Bitch," "Slut," "Go Home" and "Fuck You and Die." The curtains are shredded, the bedding slashed. The carpet squishes beneath your feet, still damp from flooding. The air is thick with mildew.

The vandalism, now being investigated as a hate crime by Tucson police, has brought a sudden media spotlight to the quiet Prince of Tucson mobile home park, located in the shadow of I-10 at the Prince Road exit.

The trailer's owner, Donna Straw, says she arrived at her unit with her boyfriend on Saturday, Feb. 15, to find water pouring out of a sliding-glass door.

"When we pushed it back, the water began flowing out even more, and that's when we found it the way it was," Straw says. "I just stood there in shock."

A resident at Prince of Tucson since 1997, Straw complains that she and her Asian-American boyfriend, who asked to remain anonymous, have had rocky relations with the trailer park's management in recent years.

In a 2001 dispute, the couple filed a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General's Office, alleging the park's management was discriminating against them by forcing them to take down a fence that surrounded their trailer. In a conciliation agreement, Prince of Tucson manager Dave Christman did not admit to any violations of the law, but he did agree to allow Straw to keep the fence. Christman also agreed that his staff would attend training in fair housing laws and that he would post regulations in his office prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin or handicap.

Christman didn't return a phone call from The Weekly.

Straw and her boyfriend complain that they've faced what he calls "subtle harassment" since they filed the complaint. By the beginning of the year, they had found a new home, moved most of their belongings and were making plans to sell the trailer, according to Straw.

The trashed trailer has caught the attention of local elected officials and civic activists, who condemned the incident at a news conference last Friday, Feb. 21.

"It's an important time for all of us to stand up," said Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias, who was joined by fellow Supervisor Dan Eckstrom, Tucson City Council members Steve Leal and Kathleen Dunbar and former Tucson Mayor George Miller. Also on hand were Betty Liggins of the NAACP, Ramon Valadez from the governor's office and Dan Benavidez from the Pima County Attorney's Office.

As the politicos stood in front of the TV cameras to express their disgust with the vandalism, they faced heckling from a group of about 25 primarily Caucasian residents of the trailer park.

"I'm upset by accusations that we're biased (because) we're not," said Marianne Sacia.

Vern Stenson, who has spent the last nine winters in the park, said after the press conference that he'd never seen any evidence of racial prejudice in the park.

"It seems like political grandstanding to me," said Stenson. "The biggest problem in the park is people who don't control their dogs."

Hans van der Velder, another winter resident, suggested the police should look into the possibility of insurance fraud.

"There's no sign of forced entry," van der Velder said. "The police should finish their investigation."

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