NEW LENOX – Police in New Lenox are investigating who is behind racist graffiti found at a construction site for a new medical office building.
The 8,000-square-foot site is for a new building run by Joliet Oncology-Hematology Associates. It was the target of vandalism Aug. 4, said Sarode Pundaleeka, president of the multi-physician practice.
Tagged in bright orange spray paint on the site's ground floor were the words “KKK” and “Build Somewhere else!!” Heavy equipment vehicles also were sprayed with graffiti.
The incident has left Pundaleeka outraged and deeply concerned about who might be responsible.
“That is a very derogatory response to a medical office building,” he said.
Richard Berti, with Lockport-based R. Berti Building Solutions, the general contractor for the project, said his crew found the graffiti early morning on Aug. 4. He does not know who could be responsible.
Usually young people play around in construction sites, he said. Because the New Lenox site is not located near any neighborhoods, where young people tend to play, whoever is responsible may have sought out the spot, he said.
“They definitely targeted the building,” he said.
The graffiti was washed off the heavy equipment vehicles because it was on glass shields, but the graffiti on the floor slab remains, he said.
Pundaleeka heads the Joliet-based practice, which has provided cancer care since 1981. The practice has satellite offices in Morris and the east side of Joliet, with more than 100 employees for more than 5,000 patients, according to its website.
Its next planned location is in New Lenox near Silver Cross Hospital, which is by Route 6 and Interstate 355. Construction began in early June, with expectations it will be finished by January.
The graffiti prompted Pundaleeka to contact New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann, Joliet Mayor Thomas Giarrante and New Lenox police. He wants to know who doesn't want his practice there and why.
Baldermann said he spoke with Pundaleeka and New Lenox police are investigating. Village officials are excited for JOHA to open in New Lenox, he said, but they do not accept or tolerate the vandalism found there.
“We hate to give attention to some moron out there,” he said about the graffiti. “It’s not the position of the village or attitude of the village.”
If police find whoever is responsible, authorities will ensure they are prosecuted to the fullest extent as “there is no place for [these messages] anywhere,” Baldermann said.
Baldermann said there were some Ku Klux Klan-related fliers found in some village neighborhoods in the past, but he does not know if there is a connection. Fliers also were found in Tinley Park and Orland Park, he said.
"There's no Klan out there. It's a couple of morons that put that kind of stuff out and hope they get some press on it," he said.