LAYTON, Utah (ABC4 News) – Having 10 tires slashed on your vehicles and trailer isn’t something that most people plan to experience on a peaceful summer night. But, for the Harnege family in Layton, that became their harsh reality last week when two of their vehicles and a camper trailer had multiple tires slashed.
“I was pretty upset,” says Theo Harnege. “Who would do something like this to us? We have the nicest neighbors, we live in a nice neighborhood, we tend to ourselves. Everyone loves us, we love our neighbors, our community, we don’t have any enemies so like why are we targeted?”
Those close to the situation are calling the incident a hate crime. Theo Harnege is black and had recently put a Black Lives Matter poster in his front yard before the tire slashing occurred.
“I have never seen anything like that in this neighborhood. This is just a really good neighborhood and everybody looks out for each other,” says Hannah Shepherd, friend and neighbor of the Harnege family.
Layton Police say they are working towards canvassing the neighborhood to see if anyone has video that would assist with identifying a suspect. However, the police department is not formally labeling the incident as a hate crime until a suspect’s motive can be established. The Layton Police say they hope that they can establish some leads in this case soon.
Shepherd says that when she heard of what had happened to her friend’s vehicles and trailer, that she was heartbroken.
“I went home (after I found out what happened to the Harnege family) and I cried and I was sad,” Shepherd recalls. “How could someone do this?…They are the best people. They come out and greet people as they are walking by and want to let everyone know they are welcome.”
So, Shepherd took things into her own hands and posted to her Facebook page telling people of the Harnege’s recent attack and asked if anyone wanted to donate to help replace all the tires lost.
“I was hoping when I posted on Facebook that maybe we would get $200. But it just exploded…overnight we ended up with $1,200,” says Shepherd of her efforts. Shepherd says that every member of the Layton City Council also donated to support the Harnege family getting their tires replaced. Two City Council members even personally visited the Harnege home to simply check on them and see if they were all okay after the recent events.
Shepherd also reached out to their local Big O Tires location and told them of the situation. Big O Tires didn’t hesitate when presented with the opportunity to help the family. They didn’t charge the family for labor as they repaired anything the vehicles may have needed and replaced all the damaged tires. All Big O Tire expenses were paid for with the money that Shepherd and the community raised for the Harnege’s.
Harnege describes himself and his family as a family that likes to give so, when they were surprised with the money to pay for all the tire and car repairs, they were extremely overwhelmed.
“We were very overwhelmed. I had no clue what was going…We can pay for our own stuff at our own leisure at our own time, we don’t look for handouts or anything. That shows that they really appreciate us being their neighbors and we accept it with open arms. We are a family that likes to give so it was kind of different for us,” Harnege says of the experience.
Shepherd hopes that this act of service helps other people realize that no matter what differences you have with someone in your community, no one deserves to be attacked or have tires slashed as the Harneges did. “I don’t believe anybody should have to go through this,” Shepherd says. “I don’t care what you believe. This is wrong.”
Although Harnege and his family are still in disbelief of what happened to them and are still hopeful the police can identify a suspect, he remains positive and sure in what he believes.
“No matter how much hate there is in this world, no matter what type of person you are, someone is always going to dislike you or have a different opinion about you. Never change who you are. Believe in what you want to believe in and support what you want to support.”