PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As a man accused of desecrating the Dominican Cemetery at Providence College faced charges in court Tuesday, the school’s president and president-elect spoke out against the suspect’s actions.
Keveon Gomera, 26, was arraigned on charges of vandalism and assault with intent to commit a felony. No plea was entered and his bail was set at $10,000 personal recognizance.
Gomera was arrested Monday night after police found him hiding in some bushes on campus.
According to PC President Rev. Brian Shanley and President-elect Rev. Kenneth Sicard, campus police responded to the cemetery around 9:30 p.m. Monday for a report of a suspicious man and found him defacing headstones and burning American flags that stood at some of the grave sites.
As the officers approached, they found the suspect had painted swastikas and anti-Catholic language on the cemetery’s central cross and several gravestones, the reverends said.
When the officers tried to question the suspect, Shanley and Sicard said he struck one of the officers in the head and ran off. The officer was taken to the hospital for treatment and later released.
The campus was locked down and Providence police officers and K-9 units were brought in to assist with the search, according to the reverends. The all-clear was given around 11:15 p.m. after the suspect was taken into custody.
The cross and headstones have since been repaired.
Shanley and Sicard released a statement on Tuesday saying “there is no place for hatred on our campus.”
“We loudly and unequivocally condemn this racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Catholic action, and the desecration of the gravestones of our beloved, deceased Dominicans who served Providence College so well and so faithfully for many years,” they wrote. “In addition, we condemn this action in support and solidarity with the Jewish members of our community, many of whom enjoyed the friendship of those late Dominican friars.”
The Jewish Alliance and Board of Rabbis also released a statement condemning the vandalism and wishing a speedy recovery to the officer who was injured.
“The Jewish community has a history of working with Providence College through their Jewish-Catholic Dialogue program, and we stand with the PC community in saying that this kind of hateful conduct is unacceptable,” the organization wrote.
“We applaud the school’s administrators and Public Safety Officers for their immediate response as well as their ongoing commitment to creating and maintaining an inclusive, engaged campus and a safe and secure environment for every member of their diverse community,” the statement continued.
Later on Tuesday, Ward 14 City Councilman David Salvatore called the incident “disgraceful” in a statement of his own.
“Providence College’s campus provides our community with many benefits including green space and access to community programs; and to see their campus desecrated with symbols of hate is harmful and traumatic,” Salvatore said. “I am glad the vandal has been apprehended, and it is my sincere hope that he is able to access the help that he needs.”