| Crime |

Teens Keep Vandalizing a University Park Sex Offender's House, and He's Getting Sick of It

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When Robert Coleman's house got egged, he called the University Park police. It was a Saturday night in September 2012. Officers came to the crime scene but found no leads, other than the splattered egg yolk. Coleman realized that his patio umbrella was also missing, according to the police report.

The following Saturday night, the eggs hit again. A neighbor told the cops that he saw two teenagers walking nearby around the same time.

Coleman installed a video camera security system, hoping to catch the egg-throwers. But when his house got hit again, the vandal spotted the camera and slapped it down.

Soon the vandals moved onto tougher objects. Coleman was sitting in his home one night when he heard the sound of glass breaking. His window had been hit with "an unknown object," according to a University Park Police Department report.

Another night, Coleman told police, he saw a car drive over his yard. The vehicle fled when he stepped outside.

The next year, Coleman was awakened by the sound of a bang. Cops, in Coleman's house yet again, found his front window was shattered and the kitchen had a strange smell. A smoke grenade rested on the ground.

Coleman counts at least 12 vandalism attacks on his home in the past three years. He says he's likely being targeted because he's a registered child sex offender. Now, Coleman has hope that some of the attackers will face harsh consequences.

University Park police have recently identified seven teenagers who egged Coleman's house this past April. "Threw a couple eggs at the side of his house then drove away. It was a stupid mistake that I regret doing," says a statement written by Austin Roberts, a 17-year-old Highland Park High School student. Police say he drove one of the getaway cars that night, a Porsche. "I am truly sorry for any damage, glad to help," he wrote.

Coleman, pushing for prison time, has told police that if the perpetrators aren't charged with a felony, he "will be put in the crosshairs of an escalated attack and will not feel safe at home, and it will signal open season to other non-heterosexuals, RSO's, and the elderly."

Coleman is classified by the state as a low-risk sex offender. He was convicted of sexual assault of a child in 1980 and 1983. He was charged for the offense again in 2006 in Dallas County after an alleged victim went to police, reporting a relationship he had with Coleman dating back ten years earlier, when the victim would have been 15. The case resulted in a hung jury, as the News reported in 2010. "There's nothing say. It's a matter of public record," he tells Unfair Park, declining to speak further about any of the cases.

He's lived in University Park for over 30 years, and he said his neighbors never gave him trouble for his criminal history, perhaps because they didn't know. That all changed in 2010, after Coleman encountered teenage boy playing saxophone in the street. He filmed the boy performing. "I said, 'You mind if I film a video of you playing a song?' And he said, 'No problem,' and that's what that was all about," Coleman says, describing the encounter as totally innocent.

But the footage disturbed a mother, who then notified the police, according to a local news report at the time.

Though Coleman wasn't charged in connection with that incident, it alerted the University Park PD to the fact that he was required to register as a sex offender under a law that had recently gone into effect in Texas. The news, obviously, didn't go over well. ("Bryn Mawr Resident Registers as Sex Offender with University Park Police Department," was the headline on Park Cities People in 2010, and the case also got write-ups in the News).

And now his house is a popular target for eggs and other stuff.

University Park police say that they have no evidence the attacks were coming from the same group of people. Though they never caught the people behind the previous attacks, UPPD Lieutenant John Ball says he's proud that detectives were finally able to identify suspects in this case.

"I'm very pleased that we spent many hours looking for these offenders, and making sure that they're brought to the courts for prosecution," Ball tells Unfair Park.

The police originally tried to turn the case over to the Dallas County district attorney, after Coleman provided a bill showing that it cost him more than $1,500 to remove the egg stains and repaint his house. But prosecutors declined to prosecute. The teenagers are instead being charged with Class C misdemeanors in municipal court. The trial isn't scheduled yet.

With their addresses posted online, registered sex offenders can make easy targets of crime. Last year, a man in South Carolina went on a killing spree, selecting child abusers his victims. Coleman argues that charging the teens with a felony will send a message to the others tempted to have some fun at his expense that they're not above the law.

The attacks have stopped recently. Word got around, Coleman says, that people are getting caught. But it will only stop for good if those caught are punished. Otherwise, he wrote, "HPHS students with easy access to cash from their rich parents in Park Cities may feel entitled to break the law with impunity."

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