Police and prosecutors may be drawing a circle around a suspected graffiti vandal who has been charged with incidents of vandalism similar to that discovered on June 2 at the Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz on Sunday announced that Kristoffer Bahamonde, 41, of Justice Avenue in Elmhurst, has been charged with three incidents dating back to May 30 and 31.
In each case charged, red swastikas and the number “110” — all the incidents took place in the NYPD’s 110th Precinct — were found.
According to Katz’s office, two red swastikas and the number 110 were found on construction fences on 54th Avenue and a short distance away on 90th street.
The anti-Semitic graffiti and numerals also were found on a grocery store on Broadway, along with the phrase “today I will never do time.”
“The defendant allegedly used symbols of hate to deface property and intimidate members of our shared community,” Katz said in an accompanying statement. “In Queens County, we stand together against hatred directed toward any group. This defendant’s alleged actions do not reflect our values or who we are.”
Authorities allege they have surveillance video of Bahamonde carrying a can of spray paint at one of the locations and actually spray-painting a swastika at another.
He has been charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief as a hate crime; first-degree aggravated harassment; making graffiti; and possession of graffiti instruments. He faces up to one and one-third to four years in prison if convicted.
Bahamonde did have an active warrant prior to being picked up. And, although he was not charged with damaging the memorial, Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) last week said in a radio interview on WABC’s “Rita Cosby Show” that the suspect in that case was in custody.
He also said the person was suspected of vandalizing Hoffman Park, at the corner of Queens and Woodhaven boulevards.
And while there are marked similarities between the letters and symbols left at all three sites and those found at the veterans memorial, neither Katz’s office nor the NYPD would comment on the latter other than to say the investigation is continuing.
“I hope they have the right guy,” Holden said. “But you can understand that the [NYPD] Hate Crimes Task Force wants to be thorough. You can understand that the District Attorney’s Office wants to be thorough.”
Capt. Jonathan Cermeli, commanding officer of the 110th Precinct, would address the memorial incident only to say that his detectives are working with investigators from the Hate Crimes Task Force.
He did say that in general, graffiti cases can be a bit trickier than in the recent past.
“It used to be that if you used your name as a tag, you wrote it everywhere, you had a history and we knew who you were, we could say there is a distinctive way you wrote the M and the I. We could say ‘That’s Mike — we know who that is. We’re gonna pick him up on that.’ And that used to be enough. A few years later, that changed.”
In recent years defense attorneys, courts and prosecutors have been more attuned to the possibility of copycat scrawlings, thus requiring a higher standard of evidence. Eyewitnesses or incriminating video help.
“We have to work hard to make a really ironclad case,” Cermeli said, with an eye not only on solving a given case, but deterring future crimes.
“We take this very seriously,” he said.
Videos or eyewitness testimony is very helpful. Sometimes, he said, you can get a confession.
“A lot of times, they’re very proud of their work,” he said.
Like the three incidents in the Katz press release, photographs taken by the Chronicle at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial show it was defaced with red swastikas and had anti-Semitic, anti-Vietnam veteran and anti-religion slurs written in both red and white lettering.
A source told the Chronicle last Wednesday that the memorial also had “110” written on a nearby rock along with a swastika. The source also told the Chronicle that the memorial vandal’s use of the letter “V” where a “U” should be also has been found at other sites.
Holden said that detail was one of the first things he noticed.
“I taught graphic arts,” he explained.
Holden also suspects the swastikas may not be intended as much as an anti-Semitic symbol as the person’s commentary on the NYPD.