The NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force says it has identified the suspect wanted in a one-man vandalism spree targeting three churches over two days last week, both on the Upper East Side and in Midtown.
Police say 28-year-old Juan Velez, whose address is listed as a Kips Bay homeless shelter, is the suspect who ripped a flag outside the All Saint’s Episcopal Church, located at 230 East 60th Street between Second and Third Avenues in Lenox Hill, just after 11:00 am on Saturday, October 29th.
The house of worship’s wooden doors were also damaged by the suspect, according to investigators.
At All Saint’s Church on Thursday, Upper East Site found that the flags which normally sit on the flagpoles outside the house of worship were gone and deep scratches could be seen on church’s front doors — including the wood and glass — as well as on the facade.
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Velez has also been identified as the man seen on surveillance video a day earlier, on Friday, October 28th, throwing a wrench at a glass door to Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s Residence at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, leaving the glass shattered, police say.
When Upper East Site visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral Thursday, the damage at has been repaired — however, Cardinal Dolan, who was not home at the time, told NBC New York that he was shaken by attack on St. Pat’s.
“You have to wonder if you’re not safe in your own home, where are you secure?” Dolan asked rhetorically.
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A third church was damaged Saturday night— detectives say also by the 28-year-old suspect — when just before 10:00 pm, a rock was thrown at the Archdiocese of New York building on at 1101 First Avenue, between East 55th and 56th Streets in Sutton Place, damaging a glass door there as well — which Upper East Site found has been replaced.
Thankfully, investigators say no one has been hurt in any of the incidents.
The number of hate crimes reported on the Upper East Side this year has risen more than 85% compared to last year, according to NYPD data — with a total of 26 incidents in 2022 versus 14 hate crimes reported at this point in 2021.
If you have any information that could help police, you’re asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-8477.
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