UPDATED STORY: April 20, 2017, 1:49 p.m. Hate crime charges dismissed against two women accused of setting Trump sign on fire, police say
Two Baltimore-area women were charged with lighting a Trump sign on fire in Somerset County, officials said.
Princess Anne police have charged D'Asia R. Perry, of Baltimore, and Joy M. Shuford, of Owings Mills, both 19, with multiple offenses, including second-degree arson and committing a hate crime, the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office said.
"The intentional burning of these political signs, along with the beliefs, religious views and race of this political affiliation, directly coincides with the victim," a Princess Anne police officer wrote in charging documents to support the hate crime charge.
By committing arson, "in doing so, with discrimination or malice toward a particular group, or someone's belief," was the reasoning for charging the women with a hate crime offense as well, said Caryn L. McMahon, deputy chief fire marshal.
Daniel W. Powell, the State's Attorney for Somerset County, declined to comment on the case. Timothy R. Bozman, chief of the Princess Anne Police Department could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Neither Perry nor Shuford have an attorney listed in online court records, nor could be reached for comment Tuesday.
The damaged sign is located in a shopping center on Carole Lane in Princess Anne, and is owned by Robert Wink, the fire marshal's office said.
Jamie Wink, Wink's son, who helps run the family store, Wink's Sporting Goods, said the sign has been outside the shop since September. It's been set on fire once before and stolen twice. But he said it's also attracted visitors who often stop to pose for selfies.
Wink said the family supports the Trump administration but said the sign has also been good for the store, which sells firearms and hunting supplies.
Since the election is over, Wink considered replacing the Trump sign with a sign advertising the shop. But because the Trump sign has gotten so much attention, he plans to keep it up.
"It's been a pretty good attention-getter," he said.
The blaze was started Friday morning, and spread to nearby vegetation but was extinguished by the fire department, the fire marshal's office said. The fire caused $800 in damage, the office said.
Wink said the Trump campaign sign wasn't too badly damaged. He said a sign for Kathy Szeliga, who ran unsuccessfully for a U.S. Senate, was melted and damaged.
Perry was identified by police as the driver of the vehicle involved in the incident. She was located on the campus of University of Maryland Eastern Shore and taken into custody, the office said. Shuford turned herself into Princess Anne Police on Saturday.
Police identified the women after reviewing surveillance video in the area, according to charging documents. The surveillance video footage showed a silver Volkswagen Beetle with two females inside stop by the sign. A passenger is seen getting out of the car and using a lighter to ignite a Glock advertisement sign near the Trump sign. The passenger then gets back into the Beetle, which drives off, the document said.
Princess Anne officers searched the area for the vehicle and found it at the parking lot in a student apartment building at the UMES campus. Perry then was seen coming out of the building and walking on the sidewalk. An officer then recognized Perry as the driver of the vehicle, and questioned her.
Perry told the officer she "just gave her a ride," referring to Shuford. Perry said the other woman's name was "April," and then later told the officer that she didn't know the name of the woman.
Both women were released on a $20,000 unsecured bond.