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Cops arrest suspect in religious site vandalism

The vandal splattered red paint all over a statue of Jesus Christ in the garden outside St. Anselm Catholic, one of four religious institutions targeted. A prep school was also targeted. Photo courtesy US Rep. Michael Grimm’s office

Charged with hate crimes

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

UPDATE: Police have arrested a suspect in the shocking desecration of four religious sites and a school in Bay Ridge.

News 12 Brooklyn reported on July 31 that the http://brooklyn.news12.com/news/chris-papadimitropoulos-facing-hate-crim... suspect, Chris Papadimitropoulos, 55, of Brooklyn, has been charged with six counts of criminal mischief as a hate crime.

Police at the 68th Precinct took the suspect into custody on July 30 and questioned him at the precinct station hosue on 65th Street for several hours before officially charging him with the crime.

Four churches and a prep school were splattered with red paint, according to Police Officer Sophia Tassy-Mason, a spokeswoman for the New York Police Department. Tassy-Mason said the vandalism was discovered shortly after 3 a.m. on July 30. “These incidents are being investigated as hate crimes,” she told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

US Rep. Michael Grimm, state Sen. Marty Golden, and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis had just finished a press conference outside Saint Anselm Catholic Church, one of the sights targeted by the vandal, condemning the attack at around noon on July 30 when word came in that the 68th Precinct’s Anti-Crime Unit had brought in a suspect for questioning.

“We have an individual in custody. We are questioning him,” Police Officer Vito Viola of the 68th Precinct said. “We believe he is the same individual on a security video and in some still shots we have,” the officer said.

The suspect's motive is unknown.

“We feel pretty confident police have the right guy,” said Grimm (R-C-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Staten Island), who added that he was very grateful for the quick action by the precinct.

Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) said police believe the vandal acted alone.

The vandal splattered red paint on two statues, of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, outside Saint Anselm Catholic Church at 356 82nd St., spray painted the word “no” at the front entrance of the Bay Ridge Jewish Center, at 415 81st St., and on the front wall at a Lutheran church on Ridge Ridge Boulevard. Curiously, the word “on” was found spray painted near the entrance of Bay Ridge Prep, a private school at 7420 Fourth Ave. “He might have decided to reverse himself,” Tassy-Mason said as to why the word “on” was found there instead of “no.”

The word “no” at the entrance of the Bay Ridge Jewish Center was painted in large letters that could be seen from more than two blocks away.

The fifth site, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, at 8401 Ridge Boulevard, suffered significant damage, according to Christopher Elisson, a church member. Red paint was discovered on six of the church’s doors, on a flagpole on the front lawn, and on the cornerstone of the church, he said. “It was pretty bizarre,” he said at the press conference.

The paint-splattered statues outside St. Anselm Church were discovered early in the morning. “There were parishioners out here on the sidewalk crying,” said Golden, who was at the scene at 7:30 a.m. with his deputy chief of staff, John Quaglione. Quaglione a member of the St. Anselm Parish Pastoral Planning Council condemned the vandalism as “an act of hatred that will not be tolerated.”

Golden and Quaglione each put up a reward for the arrest and conviction of a suspect. Golden funded a $2,000 reward while Quaglione established a $500 reward.

Golden said it would cost thousands of dollars to repair the two statues. "You have to send them out to be repaired. It isn't a matter of just wiping off the paint," he said.

Golden, Grimm, and Malliotakis were joined at the press conference Tuesday morning by priests and parishioners of St. Anselm Church and by Elison, representing Holy Cross Church. The area where the statues are located was roped off with yellow police tape.

“It’s horrible that we even have to be here today,” Grimm said, calling the vandalism “disgraceful.” Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) said the attacks left her “disgusted and heartbroken.” What made the crime more shocking, she said, is that Bay Ridge “is a melting pot” where people of all faiths live together in harmony.

Dan Texeira, president of the St. Anselm Parish Pastoral Planning Council, said he thought the vandal was trying to send some sort of message against religion. “This was a planned attack against these religious institutions. It can’t be that this was just kids walking around Bay Ridge with a can of paint,” he told the Eagle.

Susan Michalski, a St. Anselm parishioner cried at the press conference. “If I could talk to the person who did this, I would ask, ‘Why? Why? Why?’ What would possess someone to do this?” she asked.

The Rev. Martin Kull, a parish priest at St. Anselm, said the attack would not deter the work of the church. “This is a community of love. For this one act of hatred, I have seen thousands of acts of kindness,” he said.

Keep checking back with www.brooklyneagle.com for updates on this developing story.

July 30, 2013 - 1:30pm


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