Brianna Rizzo just wanted to date who she wanted.
As a white 14-year-old student at Spring Creek High School, she encountered numerous obstacles after dating two black students, one for three years in middle school, and the other for a few months in high school. Between threatening messages from fake Instagram accounts to strange looks from older people when out in public with her boyfriend, Rizzo experienced a great deal.
But nothing prepared her and her family for what happened just two days after Christmas.
Early Thursday morning, Amanda Miller’s husband woke her as he was on his way to work. She went to check the vandalism. She could smell the smoke before she even saw the damage to their vehicles as she approached her 2012 gold Chevy Town and Country in the driveway.
“All I see is a swastika and down the side it had the B-word and whore written down it,” Miller said. Upon closer inspection, Miller and her husband discovered someone spray painted racist phrases on the van’s door and hood.
Their other vehicle, a 2018 Chevy Trax, was broken into and set on fire using the spray paint can, which melted the passenger seat and destroyed the interior of the car.
Miller said she believes the vandalism was an attack toward her daughter, Rizzo, due the racial slurs used. Rizzo has received threatening messages about her interracial relationships in the past, but nothing to this extent, Miller said.
“She’s been getting Instagram messages telling her that she’s an N-word lover,” Miller said. “Even with the people talking about her on social media, I didn’t even think it was all that bad.
“We were all thinking it’s just kids being kids, they’re just being ignorant right now. It’ll blow over.”
Detective Scott Peele of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the investigation ruled the vandalism a hate crime. He said hate crimes are extremely rare in Wayne County, and the sheriff’s office notified the State Bureau of Investigation. For now, the WCSO will handle the case.
“At this point in time, we have looked at social media and people who might have a motive to do this,” Peele said.
Right before Christmas, someone spray-painted (a female expletive) on another in the White Oak Road neighborhood, Peele said. They do not have a suspect identified and the WCSO is continuing it’s investigation, he said. Anyone with information about the case can contact the WCSO at 919-731-1481.
Miller said she was shocked when she saw hate speech on her van.
“I don’t know if it’s because kids are out of school and they’re bored, and they thought it would be something fun and it gotten taken too far,” Miller said. “You just don’t expect to see that around here. Maybe Durham, maybe Raleigh, I could see something like that. But not here.”
Rizzo has not seen the damage done to the two vehicles yet because she is in Florida for a funeral. Miller said she is worried about her daughter’s reaction when she returns and how students at her school will react to the incident.
“I know she’s got to go to school, but I don’t feel safe sending her unless they’re going to assure us that someone is going to walk with her,” Miller said, adding that she was concerned about the reaction of students who didn’t know her daughter was in an interracial relationship. She hopes the attention from the news media will cause someone to confess.
“I’ll feel more comfortable if I know who did it,” Miller said. “Originally, it was about prosecuting and making sure we were getting something for the damages, but now it’s more. I want to feel that safety that they’re gone and in jail.”
As far as the damage to the two vehicles go, the 2012 Chevy Town and Country was salvageable. Miller and her husband removed most of the spray paint, and their insurance will cover the cost of touching up the paint, she said. But, the 2018 Chevy Trax was destroyed, and they do not have gap insurance to cover the damage the fire caused.
Miller said their insurance will only pay for $17,000 of the damage, but it’s still not enough. They will have to continue making car payments on the vehicle, even though it’s unusable.
“It puts it to where we can’t even get another car right now because we have to pay off that,” Miller said.
Miller has opened a GoFundMe campaign to help cover the damages. Anyone who wishes to donate to the campaign could visit bit.ly/2Rq8vqN.