The Delray Beach Police have arrested a suspect believed to have defaced the Pride mural at a downtown intersection just two days after it was dedicated.
Alexander Jerich, 20, was charged with criminal mischief over $1,000, reckless driving and evidence of prejudice (felony enhancement), according to police.
“On Monday, Jerich was seen by witnesses, doing what appeared to be an intentional ‘burnout’ with his vehicle over the LGBTQ pride crosswalk,” Ted White, the public information manager for the Delray Beach Police Department, said in an email to SFGN. “Another witness provided a smartphone video of the crime. This afternoon, Jerich turned himself in at the Delray Beach Police Department. He did not wish to give a statement. Jerich was taken to the Palm Beach County jail.”
The arrest was after a video circulated on Facebook of a white truck flying a Trump flag purposefully leaving behind skid marks over the rainbow intersection at Northeast Second Avenue and Northeast First Street in downtown Delray Beach.
“It’s amazing how many people in Delray Beach were outraged about this,” said Rand Hoch, the founder and president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.
Hoch received tips from the public, including those who had found the video evidence posted on Facebook. In the video, a car behind the white truck flying what appears to be flying a Trump flag slows down in the intersection, slowly driving over the mural and leaving behind black skid marks before driving away.
“It shows intent,” Hoch said. “It shows a license plate.”
According to the police report, a witness said there was an event to celebrate former President Donald Trump’s birthday and they had a route they were going to drive through Delray Beach as part of the festivities. When they reached the intersection, someone yelled out, “Adam, tear up that gay intersection.” Jerich, or “Adam,” was picked out of a lineup by the witness who said he came forward “not only as a community member but as a gay man.”
The report states that the cost of street space was $16,720. The city is working with a contractor to have it repaired.
Earlier this week, Hoch had emailed Chief Javaro Sims to cite the new Florida Criminal Mischief Statute, or “anti-riot law,” passed by Gov. Ron DeSantis which would create harsher punishments for those who vandalize a historic property or memorial. The PBCHRC has also been in touch with the state attorney’s office.
“The Pride Streetscape is a ‘memorial’ as defined at Section 806.135(1)(b) as it is both a ‘painting’ and a ‘display’ which was ‘constructed and located with the intent of being permanently displayed’ and ‘perpetually maintained,’” Hoch wrote, highlighting that speakers at the ribbon-cutting specifically mentioned that the streetscape is “dedicated” to events such as the Stonewall Riots that kicked off the Equality Movement and the murder of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando five years ago.
Should the vandal’s crime fall under this expanded statute, it would be considered a third-degree felony.
“It’s deliberate. I really hope justice works and they really apply this law,” Hoch said.
Delray Beach’s Pride intersection is one of many cropping up throughout Florida. Boynton Beach recently celebrated the unveiling of its own rainbow intersection, and in April, West Palm Beach presented its own to the public. Key West’s permanent Pride crosswalk was unveiled in 2015 and Sarasota installed their own last year. In a May letter to the editor from Wilton Manors Commission Chris Caputo, he called for a rainbow crosswalk in the Island City.
SFGN editor Jason Parsley with his husband the day the new Pride intersection was dedicated in Delray Beach. Courtesy of Jason Parsley.