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Racist message, threat scrawled in Pittsburgh van

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By Margaret Harding
Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011

Riders on a Pittsburgh senior center van found racially charged graffiti and a bomb threat scrawled on the inside of the vehicle on Monday.

Bomb technicians inspected the vehicle and found no explosives. Police announced they are investigating the case as a hate crime.

"It's sick," said Barbara Robinson, 71, as she left the Hazelwood senior center where the van is kept. "It's really sick. I'm glad I didn't have to go anywhere today."

Seniors in Homewood and Morningside pointed out the graffiti during a morning trip, Lt. Shirley Sloan said. When the driver saw the threat, he called his supervisor, and pulled over at the Burger King on East Carson Street in the South Side and called police.

A worker at the center declined comment. Citiparks Director Michael Radley did not return a phone call. Citiparks operates the center, which serves people of various races.

Police said that sometime after 4 p.m. Wednesday, someone broke into the gated parking area of the center on Second Avenue and vandalized the vehicle. Someone drew swastikas and the letters "KKK" on the ceiling and door of the van, police said. The graffiti, with several misspellings, included a threat that two bombs would be set off Downtown at 5 p.m., although police did not say which day.

"Nothing will stop our hell rain fire down apon [sic] your souls," the threat stated, according to police.

Robinson said she sometimes rides the van when it takes seniors out to lunch. It also takes seniors to doctor appointments and other senior centers, she said.

"It's always clean," said Robinson, who lives in Hazelwood. "It's almost making me afraid to come down here. I hope they find out who did it.

"This is crazy," she said. "We're seniors. We're happy to come together and get out of the house."

Police are asking anyone with information to call them at 412-323-7800.

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