DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Delray Beach police confirmed Thursday a 20-year-old man is under arrest in connection with the vandalism of a brand new LGBTQ Pride intersection and crosswalk.
Police on Thursday said Alexander Jerich, 20, was arrested on charges of criminal mischief over $1,000, reckless driving and evidence of prejudice, which elevates the crime to a felony.
The multi-colored street art installation, located at Northeast First Street and Northeast Second Avenue, was officially unveiled to the public last Saturday.
However, by Monday, it had been defaced with black skid marks running across the colorful pattern. A police department spokesman said the vandalism was caused by a tire burnout.
The Pride intersection is dedicated to Delray Beach resident Nicholas Coppola. Coppola said the skid marks on this crosswalk is a sign of hate.
"This is something that I consider is for all of us," Coppola said. "As personal as I took it, I take it on behalf of the community for the damage that it has done. This was an assault on an entire community."
Police said the skid marks are about 15 feet across the painting.
"This is just a surface. But these wounds run deep," Coppola said. "I mean, we've had how many trans siblings murdered -- viciously murdered -- in such a short period of time, most recently. Again, this shows just how much more work we have to do. This is definitely not representative of Delray Beach."
Jerilyn Walter, broker and owner of Posh Properties, said she didn't believe anyone with any intelligence did this.
"It's important to understand that we're united together as a community, as a human race," Walter said.
According to City Commissioner Ryan Boylston, the city plans to repaint the damaged areas.
Jerich was seen by witnesses doing what appeared to be an intentional burnout over the crosswalk on Monday, according to police.
Jerich turned himself in at the Delray Beach Police Department on Thursday and was taken to the Palm Beach County Jail.
Eleven colors make up the new LGBTQ Pride intersection and crosswalk, which symbolize unity and acceptance in our community.
"What the vandalists don't realize is how powerful and resilient the LGBTQ community is," Julie Seaver, the executive director of Compass, an LGBTQ community center in Lake Worth Beach, said. "We have to deal with this type of hate every single day. But we do know how to rally and organize, and we know how to stand together side-by-side even in the face of hate."
UPDATE: DBPD: -Alexander Jerich, 20 turned himself in.— JOSH NAVARRO (@JoshNavarroTV) June 17, 2021
-Charged with criminal mischief over $1K, reckless driving
-Charged with evidence of prejudice
-Police say he did not want to give a statement
-Booked in the Palm Beach County Jail. https://t.co/3VvOmSSHBO
If convicted, Jerich may face penalties under Florida's newly passed "Combating Public Disorder Law," which makes it a third-degree felony if someone "willfully and maliciously defaces, injures, or otherwise damages by any means a memorial or historic property."
Rand Hoch, the president and founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, said LGBTQ Pride crosswalks in Delray Beach, Boynton Beach and West Palm Beach are all recognized and protected as public monuments.
"I was actually horrified," Hoch said. "We have done installations of LGBTQ Pride art here in Palm Beach County all month long. This is something deliberate, intentional, willful and malicious."
Hoch said the law was intended to protect Confederate memorials, but the Delray Beach Pride crosswalk meets all the requirements.
Under the law, the streetscape is a memorial defined as a painting and a permanent display dedicated to a local resident.
"The new law provides that it’s a felony," Hoch said. "They have to, of course, be convicted. If they're convicted, they'll have to pay whoever is owning the memorial to replace it or repair it."
Under the law, a person convicted could face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.