Tahmoor Khan and his family have called Bangor home for nearly three decades. So he was filled with shock and anger when he saw his car spray-painted with racist language on Friday night.
“It’s egregious. It’s disgusting,” Khan, 33, said in an interview Monday. “It’s just downright heinous for them to come into my driveway, into my home, and write these kinds of words.”
The perpetrators, whom Bangor police have identified as two 15-year-old girls, spray-painted the N-word numerous times on Khan’s car as it was parked at his home on Bolling Drive on Friday. The graffiti included a call to kill all Black people, and a phrase that appeared to say “KKK Supporter.”
The juveniles were detained shortly after and were issued summonses for criminal mischief, Bangor police Sgt. Wade Betters said Monday. They have been released to the custody of a parent. The Bangor Police Department has alerted the Maine attorney general’s office, which has the power to bring hate crimes charges.
Khan posted about the vandalism on Facebook on Saturday, and word spread across social media throughout Maine, and even nationally. Khan said he had been encouraged by the outpouring of support. Darkside Mobile Auto Detailing in Hermon removed the racist language on his car for free, a job that would have cost up to $300 otherwise, Khan said.
He was also thankful that nobody had been hurt.
It is not the first time Khan’s family has been the victim of a racially motivated attack. A man allegedly threatened to kill Khan’s father, Noor Khan, in the family’s Bahaar Pakistani Restaurant in downtown Bangor four days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The man, who was later found not guilty of criminal terrorizing, also allegedly told a worker at the restaurant to “go back where he came from.”
Three days after Friday’s vandalism, Tahmoor Khan said it was “heartbreaking” that such a thing had happened to him in Bangor. He had experienced prejudiced and racist people, but never so overtly, he said.
While Khan is first-generation Pakistani-American and the vandalism to his car was anti-Black, he said the intent was clear and it was hateful.
However, he said it had been far from representative of his experience living in Bangor, where he said people have always been kind to him and his family.
“There are a few bad actors,” Tahmoor Khan said. “But you are also going to find the good in people, people’s beautiful souls.”
Tahmoor Khan said he did not know the girls accused of vandalizing his car and was unclear about a potential motive except that it was undoubtedly a “racist hate crime.” He believes it could be tied to his local activism work, which has included organizing for Planned Parenthood and working for various Democratic campaigns.
“At the end of the day, I think it’s just because I’m a brown person and they felt like they needed to target somebody,” Khan said. “And they did.”
The vandalism shows that people need to establish a culture in Bangor in which all forms of racism are unacceptable, Racial Equity and Justice, a local anti-racist group, said in a statement.
“Because this incident happened, it shows that there are still people in our community who believe these actions are supported and warranted,” the statement said.
On Monday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group that advocates for American Muslims, called for hate crimes charges to be filed against the juveniles. Tahmoor Khan is Muslim.
“It is crucial that law enforcement take the rising tide of hate attacks targeting minority communities seriously and act accordingly,” spokesperson Ibrahim Hooper said.
Over the weekend, the Bangor City Council issued a statement condemning the vandalism.
Khan’s next-door neighbor, Kyle Prim, had come out to get his McDonald’s delivery from UberEats on Friday night when he saw two people spray-painting Khan’s car. He flashed the flashlight from his phone on them and they fled.
“They’re probably one of the best neighbors I’ve ever had,” Prim, 23, said of Khan and his family. “I feel so bad for them because they didn’t deserve that.”
While the racist vandalism has been removed from Tahmoor Khan’s car, there is still damage remaining. The pair used sandpaper to scratch all across his car, including “KKK” into the hood. The pair also ripped up flowers from the Khan family’s garden and left spray paint cans, sandpaper and acetone behind when they fled.
“They had planned to do more damage,” Tahmoor Khan said.
Khan said he had mixed feelings about speaking with the culprits at this time. Yet, if he could talk to them, he’d have just one message.
“Be better as individuals,” he said. “Be better as human beings.”