A suspect has been arrested in the vandalism of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Veterans Park.
Sometime overnight between Sunday, October 6 and early Monday morning, October 7, a portion of the memorial was vandalized with graphic and foul graffiti covering the names of all those from Porterville who died in the Vietnam War.
On October 7, Porterville Police Department received the report of graffiti on the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. PPD's press release stated “Officers discovered that unknown subject(s) disgracefully defaced the memorial with gang-related graffiti.”
The Porterville Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit took over the investigation and subsequently identified a 15 year old Terra Bella resident as a possible suspect.
On October 9 at approximately 5 p.m., Special Investigations Unit Detectives responded to a residence in Terra Bella and detained a juvenile suspect in the front yard. Detectives identified the 15 year old juvenile suspect as being involved in three related vandalisms in Porterville where gang related graffiti was sprayed, including at the Vietnam Memorial, as well as a building in the 100 block of North ‘D’ Street, and an area on the Tule River Bridge at Main Street.
A search warrant was obtained by detectives for additional evidence. During the search of the residence, detectives located evidence related to membership in a criminal street gang, spray paint, and a loaded .357 revolver, Porterville Police said. The handgun was stored in a way that made it accessible to young children who also resided in the house.
The suspect was arrested and booked at the Juvenile Detention Facility for Felony Vandalism, Minor in Possession of a Firearm, Minor in Possession of Ammunition, Criminal Storage of a Firearm, Child Endangerment, and Participation in a Criminal Street Gang.
“I'm glad to hear that,” said Allen Pundt of American Legion Post 20 when told a suspect had been caught. “I'm just tickled to death they caught someone.”
American Legion Post 20 and the City of Porterville Parks and Leisure Services have worked together on the development and maintenance of the memorial.
Pundt also said he appreciated the police's work and the community's support. “I'm glad to see the community and law enforcement take this so seriously,” he said.
But Pundt said the current marker can't be restored. “You can't get it off,” said Pundt about the graffiti that's still on the marker.
So a new marker with a list of names of those from Porterville who died in Vietnam will be needed. Pundt said it would take 6 to 8 weeks for a new marker to be created.
The cost should considerable especially since the names of those who died in Vietnam will have to be redone.
But Pundt stressed before any fundraising efforts are considered, the cost of the project needs to be figured out. American Legion Post 20 is holding a meeting tonight and Pundt said the discussion of what it will take for the memorial to have a new marker will begin.
Anyone having information about criminal street gangs and their activities are urged to report them to the Porterville Police Department at (559) 782-7400.