By Paul Gattis

The FBI and two other organizations announced Thursday they are offering up to $18,000 in reward money for information concerning the vandalism of two Huntsville synagogues last year.

An individual believed to be involved in the vandalism may have a prosthetic leg, law enforcement officials said.

The FBI is offering up to $15,000 for information that leads to an arrest and conviction of the individual responsible. Huntsville Area Crime Stoppers is offering $1,000 in reward money and the Anti-Defamation League is offering up to $2,000.

The reward campaign will be advertised on digital billboards across north Alabama and southern Tennessee. “We’ve gathered information and evidence but we also know that we need more and we need to ask the community to help us,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said.

“We’re asking the community to come forward and tell us what they know about this crime.

The first incident took place at the Etz Chayim Synagogue located on Bailey Cove Road when anti-Semitic graffiti was spray painted on the building.

Police said surveillance camera footage indicated the vandalisms were perpetrated by the same individual – who walked with a “pronounced, distinct limp and appeared to have a prosthetic leg.”

The individual may have been driving an early model Toyota Prius that was light in color.

On April 4, less than a week before the vandalizations, the individual was seen walking on residential streets near the Chabad of Huntsville in the Blossomwood neighborhood.

“Hate crimes are the highest priority of the FBI civil rights program because of the devastating impact they have on families and communities that we live in,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. said. “The crimes committed by this individual have impacted this community and we need your help to bring the person responsible to justice.”

U.S. Attorney Prim Escalona declined to speculate on what charges might be brought but Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray said it could be declared a hate crime.

“The good thing about bringing the federal task force in on this, it rises to the level of a hate crime,” McMurray said. “That brings enhanced sentencing availability.”

Said Escalona, “This is not only a threat to the victims but to the community as a whole. We should all feel safe in our homes, in our schools, in our communities and especially in the places where we worship.” Individuals with information are asked to contact the FBI at 256-539-1711 or Huntsville police at 256-427- 7009. Tips can also be submitted online at tips.fbi.gov.