Suspected vandalism damaged yards, gardens and campaign signs at nearly two dozen properties where residents supported the same two Alamo Heights Independent School District candidates.
Homeowners decrying what they term politically motivated attacks connected to the May 1 election said replacement costs involving plants and gardens could reach into the thousands of dollars.
Both the San Antonio and Alamo Heights police departments have opened investigations. AHISD attendance zones extend to both cities.
“It does appear our political signs were a connection,” said North Central resident Kate Griffin, whose garden was destroyed. “None of our homes are near each other and no other homes near mine were vandalized.”
On May 14, Alamo Heights Deputy Police Chief Cindy Pruitt said investigators received reports from residents whose front yards have long streaks of dead or dying grass.
“They didn’t seem to be related at first,” Pruitt said of the first few reports. “Now, we need to figure out if there’s a link between any of these people.”
In addition, the Alamo Heights community garden sustained similar damage.
No suspects or charges have been reported.
Travis Wiltshire, who recently mounted an unsuccessful campaign for the AHISD board, said he noticed a lengthy stretch of dead grass on the edge of his front yard.
“You can see someone poured something on it,” he added.
Yards featuring his signs and those for candidate Elissa Sangster, who also lost her bid for the AHISD board, were hit.
Wiltshire initially decided against filing a police report, hoping it was an isolated incident. He also was eager to get on with his life after losing the May 1 race, he added.
However, a few days later, Wiltshire heard about neighbors and other AHISD residents who reported parts of their yards were dead or dying. He then filed a report with AHPD.
Many of those individuals said they supported Wiltshire and Sangster, and wondered if they were targeted, according to Wiltshire.
“Part of this appears to be based on my campaign. I feel bad about that,” Wiltshire said. “I want to be supportive of (the residents). I’m still in the stage of figuring things out.”
Oak Park/Northwood resident-area resident Jamie Eickhoff found nearly 50 rosebushes planted along her front yard dead or dying in mid-May.
Eickhoff also believes someone defaced campaign signs on her property just before the May 1 election. Those signs showed her support for Wiltshire, Sangster and Mayor Ron Nirenberg, the latter who won reelection to a third term.
It will cost thousands to replace the plants, said Eickhoff.
More residents now sharing their accounts of vandalism on Facebook or NextDoor pages said they, too, mainly supported Wiltshire and Sangster.
Griffin’s garden, she said, was vibrant on Mother’s Day, May 9. But two days later, she noticed two stressed spots on her lawn, describing them “as if something had been poured on the area, and the sunflowers in my pollinator and monarch butterfly garden were dead.”
On May 12, all of the flowers along a 6-foot strip of the garden had withered and died. The next day, Griffin found three more portions of her lawn dead and appearing burnt.
Griffin said she’s heard more than 20 AHISD residential properties were affected in the same way. She placed a Wiltshire campaign sign in her yard before the May 1 election.
She still has another yard sign, “In This House We Believe Kindness is Everything.” Many of the vandalized properties had Sangster and Wiltshire signs outside, she added.
Sangster said she heard of neighborhood residents whose Nirenberg or Ezra Johnson sign(s) were defaced. Johnson was among those who challenged District 10 City Councilman Clayton Perry in the May 1 election. Perry won re-election.
Wiltshire, who’s Black, said he also endured some racially charged pushback on social media and elsewhere during the campaign.
“But that wasn’t something I wanted to focus on,” he added. “In any community, you’re going to have someone who doesn’t like you or agree with you or is small-minded.”
Sangster lamented suggestions that her neighbors were being targeted for their political beliefs.
“It’s a sad day when we can’t just all get along and have a fair, democratic process that focuses on the amazing good that all of the candidates bring to these positions,” said Sangster.
“Whether you are maligning someone’s character, destroying their personal property or just purporting that their views are somehow bad because they think differently than you do…none of this behavior gets us where we want to be as a community, as a city, a state, or a nation.”
None of the residents who spoke with LOCAL Community News or reported vandalism in their yards placed any blame on the winning AHISD board candidates, nor any other specific person or group. Eickhoff, however, said she feels someone who lives in the area or knows it well is responsible for the vandalism.
Jennifer Saucedo Rodriguez, an SAPD spokeswoman, said on May 14 she could not confirm how many vandalism reports have been filed by AHISD patrons living in San Antonio.
Pruitt said the investigation includes determining the substance used on residents’ yards and at the community garden. It could have been dormant and then triggered by landscaping or another activity.
“Some of the lasting effects you don’t see until later on,” she added.
Eickhoff organized a GoFundMe campaign to raise money toward a reward. As of May 16, half of the $10,000 goal had been met.
Anyone with information is asked to call AHPD at 210-822-3321.