The US Secret Service and the FBI are investigating a vandalism incident at a Lakeville golf course, where a swastika was carved into the 18th green above President Obama's last name.
Around 6:30 Monday morning, workers at the Lakeville Country Club discovered the message, which read "I," the Nazi Party symbol, and "Obama," with a long line underneath. They immediately notified authorities, who are treating the incident as a potential threat.
"We investigate these cases thoroughly," said Steven Ricciardi, special agent in charge of the Secret Service's Boston office, which has joined local police on the case. He declined further comment.
Lakeville Police Chief Mark Sorel said the vandalism, which has also drawn the attention of the FBI, likely constitutes a hate crime, whether the culprits meant it as a prank or not.
"We don't have a suspect as yet. We are pursuing any leads that we receive," he said. He said police have spoken with neighbors who live near the course, but they did not see or hear anything unusual.
Lakeville is a rural town of about 10,000 people some 40 miles south of Boston.
Obama plans to visit Boston Oct. 23 to attend a fund-raising luncheon for Governor Deval Patrick at the Westin Copley Place hotel. The Secret Service is in charge of presidential security.
Lou Mincone, the public club's assistant manager, said he was stunned by the vandals' gall, and baffled by the senseless, hateful act.
"What would motivate anyone to do such a thing?" he asked incredulously. "To use the president's name like that? It's crazy."
Mincone, who discovered the damage, said the vandals dug the message more than an inch into the turf, likely using a tool or sports cleats. He said the message, which was about 10 feet by 15 feet wide, was written sometime Sunday night or Monday morning.
"It took a while to do," he said. "It wasn't a five-minute deal."
The course is encircled by a short fence but is simple to access, he said. Teenagers over the years have occasionally stolen flags and thrown tee markers into the water, but had never done serious damage, he said.
"Nothing like this," he said. The green is not lit and does not have surveillance cameras, he said.
The course moved the pin on the final hole to make it more playable, he said, but golfers will have to contend with the damage for some time. Repairing the green this late in the year could take months, he said, and will cost at least $1,000.
"There will be a blemish for quite some time," he said. "It's just sick."
Last month, the Secret Service launched an investigation into a survey posted on Facebook that asked whether people thought President Obama should be assassinated.
On the beat
Columnist Adrian Walker says UMass Dartmouth is shaken after revelations that one of the Marathon bomb suspects was a student there. Read more