Four teens who were charged with a hate crime after vandalising a school were identified because their phones automatically connected to the WiFi with their unique IDs.
The crime took place on May 23, 2018, when CCTV caught the group using spray paint to graffiti swastikas and racist and homophobic slurs, as well as penises and other images, across Glenelg High School in Maryland.
One part of the graffiti specifically targeted Principal David Burton, who is black, with a racial slur.
Attorney Rich Gibson spoke of the offensive spray paint in a press conference, saying:
This was something that was 50 separate acts of hate, you have anti-Semitic graffiti, you have racist graffiti, racist graffiti that targeted Principal Burton by name, you have homophobic references that were made.
This is an act of violence that rips the fabric of our community.
The four teens, later identified as Joshua Shaffer, Seth Taylor, Matthew Lipp, and Tyler Curtiss, wore t-shirts over their faces to avoid being recognised on security footage. However, they were registered as being on campus at the time as their phones automatically connected to the school’s Wi-Fi.
According to The Washington Post, students at Glengelg must log in from their phones with unique IDs in order to connect to the internet. After the initial login the devices then continue to ‘automatically connect whenever they are on campus’.
As a result, the four students could be identified through the system.
After being identified, Shaffer, Taylor, Lipp and Curtiss were arrested and charged with vandalism and destruction of property, as well as a hate crime.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Taylor and Curtiss explained the crime came about as they tried to think of what to do for their ‘senior prank’ before leaving high school for good.
One of the teens suggested spray painting the words ‘Class of 2018’, which they did, but things quickly took a dark turn as they then began attacking certain groups, writing ‘KKK’ and drawing swastikas.
He struggled to explain why he didn’t stop despite claiming he knew it was wrong, saying:
I don’t know. Everyone was doing it. We didn’t realize the consequences.
It was just spray paint. It just happened. It is all a blur.
Earlier this year, the group were sentenced to probation, community service and consecutive weekends in jail ranging from nine to 18 weeks.
However, the teens were reportedly only required to serve part of their respective sentences and all four will be eligible to get the hate crimes expunged from their record when their probation is finished.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.