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3 charged in auto show vandalism spree

Minor vandalism is an auto show hazard, but what happened Wednesday night may be a first, as three southwest suburban men did about $30,000 damage to seven vehicles at the Chicago Auto Show because they were angry at U.S. jobs going overseas.

Bryan Kjellman, 22, of the 10800 block of Deer Point Drive; Richard Data, 20, of the 15500 block of Helen Lane; and Edmund Grzeszkiewicz, 27, of the 15400 block of Cherrywood Circle -- all of Orland Park -- were arrested at 10 p.m. at the annual show at McCormick Place, Chicago police said.

They were charged with one felony count each of criminal damage to property for allegedly doing thousands of dollars in damage to the interior of the seven 2011 Toyota vehicles, police said.

The three were caught in a blue Toyota Camry, damaging the interior with razor knives and flathead screwdrivers, according to a police report. A security camera caught footage of them inside the car.

Besides the Camry, a RAV4, a Prius, a Land Cruiser, two Tundras and a Lexus ES350 were damaged, the latter having its back seat punctured and a turn indicator broken, according to the report.

The men allegedly told police they were angry about American jobs going overseas.

But they may have picked the wrong cars to knife, according to Toyota Motor Sales USA spokesman Curt McAllister.

While three of the makes they targeted – the Prius, Lexus and Land Cruiser – are made in Japan, the others are assembled in the United States or Canada.

The Camry is assembled in Georgetown, Ky., and the RAV4 in Canada, McAllister said. The Tundra, “in terms of U.S. content, is the most American-made truck in the U.S,” he said. It is manufactured in San Antonio, Texas.

McAllister noted 60 percent of Toyotas sold in the U.S. are assembled in this country. “I think that some stereotypes die hard,” he said.

McAllister said the company uses about 500 U.S. suppliers of various sizes, and noted that using U.S. parts and content is what makes the vehicles so “American.”

The blue Camry sustained damage to its dash and passenger-side speaker guard, which was were pried apart. Its front seats were also sliced, according to the police report. Other Toyotas were found in the immediate area with similar damage.

Police said damage totaled about $30,000 to the vehicles, which had speakers cut open, dash boards ripped apart, seats sliced and windshields scratched.

McAllister said minor vandalism is common at auto shows, but this was a first.

“All automakers suffer minor incidents of vandalism on the auto show circuit -- stolen knobs, badging, etc,” he said. “However, we cannot remember such an egregious, premeditated act of vandalism, involving this many vehicles, ever happening at an auto show in the U.S.

“It’s unfortunate because the crowds visiting our exhibits in Chicago have been overwhelmingly courteous and positive about our brands.”

The suspects are expected to appear in bond court on Friday.

Contributing: Tina Sfondeles

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