OLEAN — A local salon owner believes that a brick thrown through the double-pane window of his business early Saturday was a hate crime.
Leo Wolters Tejera, owner of WT Hair, 411 N. Union St., said a brick that was thrown through a large window at the front of his business struck a sign that carried messages that included “Black Lives Matter.”
While Wolters Tejera isn’t sure what time the incident took place due to an issue with a security system, he expects professionals to review the system to determine an exact time it occurred.
Wolters Tejera said residents noticed the broken window Saturday and called to tell him of the vandalism. The window replacement is expected to be somewhat expensive.
“At this point, we’re still trying to figure out if our insurance will pay for it, or our landlord, because the building just changed hands,” he said.
While Wolters Tejera believes the incident is a hate crime, he said the Olean City Police have not classified it as such.
“I asked them directly why they won’t label it as a hate crime and they said they didn’t have enough evidence,” he explained.
The investigating officer of the incident, as well as Olean City Police Chief Jeff Rowley, are both off duty for the next few days and couldn’t be reached for a comment on the matter.
Wolters Tejera offered reasons as to why he believes the incident was a hate crime.
“I am an out transgender person … in Cattaraugus County, and my wife is brown, she’s Hispanic and she’s a lesbian,” he said. “And I have black and brown trans and gender nonconforming children. So, just based off of that and the amount of visibility we have, it would be easy to see why we would be targeted.”
Wolters Tejera has been active and outspoken in recent weeks with the local Black Lives Matter movement, while also speaking as an LGBTQ advocate.
In addition, he said the brick that was thrown hit directly on a sign in the window that carried the messages “Happy Pride” and “Black Lives Matter.”
After the incident, the window was boarded up and Wolters Tejera and his wife, Elle, received an “overwhelming amount of support from the #WT hairfam.”
In addition, the shop received four large dispensers of Tim Hortons coffee, several boxes of doughnuts, chocolates and flowers from the community.
“Some of our friends actually came over and redecorated the plywood they boarded up the window with … and it has the exact same saying on it,” he added.
Wolters Tejera also noted the business had been working with Barry Broughton of AKT Combatives Academy on North Union Street to establish a scholarship prior to the vandalism incident.
“It’s going to be called the ‘AKT and WT Hair Take Ground Against Racism Scholarship,’” he noted. The scholarship will be given to an economically disenfranchised student at AKT.
“We were going to personally fund (the scholarship), but people have actually made donations to us,” he stated. “So we decided if people gave us more than we need to replace the window, we’re going to potentially offer a second scholarship.”
Wolters Tejera said he wanted it known that the business sees “this crime not as a crime against us. It is a crime against the Black Lives Matter movement. We don’t desire to bring any sort of fame or notoriety to ourselves. But we are speaking up because we believe that this is a crime against the voice of marginalized people being heard.”