GLENDALE–Los Angeles County prosecutors now consider vandalism to a stone monument at St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church to be a hate crime, reported the Glendale News Press Friday.
The vandalism charges filed against 23-year-old Glendale resident Victor Petrescu were amended Thursday to reflect the change roughly one week after he was arrested in front of the church. Witnesses said he used a sledgehammer to smash a cross stone monument.
After the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office filed felony vandalism charges, Glendale Police Chief Ron De Pompa asked prosecutors to reconsider the evidence for the hate crime enhancement.
“It was simply based on additional analysis,” district attorney spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales told the Glendale News Press of the decision to amend the charge.
Petrescu, who police said is Christian and of Romanian descent, has also been charged with felony vandalism of religious property and a misdemeanor count of possessing tools with the intent to commit vandalism, according to a criminal complaint.
On Tuesday, August 17, De Pompa visited the Western Prelacy and briefed Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian on the investigation and provided background on the matter to Prelacy officials.
De Pompa was joined by sergeants Tom Lorenz and Harout Bouzikian to discuss the incident last week. The Prelate was joined by St. Mary’s Parish Priest Rev. Vazken Atmajian, and Executive Council members Levon Kirakosian, Esq., Garo Eshgian, George Chorbajian, and Toros Kejejian.
The Prelate thanked Chief De Pompa and the Sergeants for their time and efforts in pursuing this case, and requested to be kept abreast of new information as the case develops.
The Prelate was informed Wednesday about the District Attorney’s decision to reclassify the case as a hate crime.
That Petrescu allegedly purchased the sledgehammer before smashing the cross stone proved the incident was premeditated, making it grounds for a hate crime, De Pompa explained to the Glendale News Press.
“To me, that clearly indicates that it was a preplanned act, not just a spontaneous-type event that I think the [district attorney] really needed to reconsider,” he was quoted as saying by the News Press.
Petrescu was spotted by two Glendale police detectives on Aug. 11 hammering into the cross stone at St. Mary’s Church.
The monument was donated to St. Mary’s in 2001 to mark the 1700th anniversary of Armenia’s adoption of Christianity as a stat religion. It also serves as a memorial to the victims of the Armenian Genocide. The “douf” stone—a rare volcanic rock—was shipped from Armenia. The damage to the cross stone was assessed at $80,000.
The monument, which was donated to the church in 2001, sustained an estimated $80,000 in damage to its carvings, although church officials have been trying to determine whether it can be repaired.
The News Press reported that Mayor Ara Najarian had also met with police to monitor the handling of the case and determine why prosecutors didn’t initially file it as a hate crime.