Not guilty plea for alleged church vandal

Estimated $80k in damage to Armenian church's monument. Not designated as hate crime.

August 13, 2010|By Veronica Rocha,
(Roger Wilson )

GLENDALE— A 23-year-old Glendale man who allegedly used a sledgehammer to smash a religious monument outside St. Mary's Armenian Apostolic Church pleaded not guilty Thursday to felony vandalism, officials said.

Victor Petrescu appeared in a Los Angeles County Superior Court in Glendale to answer to a list of charges that included felony vandalism of religious property — with an enhancement charge for damages exceeding more than $50,000 — a misdemeanor count of possessing a sledgehammer with the intent to commit vandalism and graffiti, and having a suspended and revoked driver's license, Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.

Petrescu remained in custody in lieu of $160,000 bail.

Glendale police had presented the case as a possible hate crime, but a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said prosecutors settled with the felony vandalism charges.

"After reviewing the evidence, we felt that these were the appropriate charges," spokeswoman Shiara Dávila-Morales said.


If additional evidence is presented in the future, prosecutors may reevaluate the charges, she added.

Glendale Police Chief Ron De Pompa said that if investigators uncovered additional evidence of a hate-motivated crime,

"we will absolutely be requesting the district attorney to file those charges and amend appropriately."

Petrescu was arrested Wednesday after two Glendale police detectives spotted him allegedly hammering into the church's monument on the 500 block of South Central Avenue, Lorenz said.

The detectives pulled into the church's parking lot and identified themselves to Petrescu, who made his way to a fence while carrying the sledgehammer, Lorenz said.

Petrescu, who police said is a local transient, was apprehended after a brief chase.

Church officials estimated the damage to the monument at $80,000.

In two years of run-ins with police, Petrescu has exhibited "bizarre behavior," but no incidents were related to crimes against a church or ethnicity, Lorenz said. Petrescu also has a history of drug use, he added.

Representatives for the church deferred to authorities in evaluating the case.

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