Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Evening Edition

San Diego City Leaders Ask Public's Help In Possible Hate Crime Vandalism

The front of the University Christian Church with its Black Lives Matter banner and rainbow color doors vandalized as seen in this photo taken Jan. 24, 2021.
Andrew Bowen
The front of the University Christian Church with its Black Lives Matter banner and rainbow color doors vandalized as seen in this photo taken Jan. 24, 2021.

Mayor Todd Gloria, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit and other civic and government leaders gathered Wednesday to condemn a possible hate crime last week in the Hillcrest neighborhood and ask the public for help identifying a suspect in the vandalism.

Last week, a person threw pink paint on two "Black Lives Matter" signs at University Christian Church and Rich's nightclub. On Wednesday, police released a still photo of the suspect they obtained from security footage.

San Diego City Leaders Ask Public's Help In Possible Hate Crime Vandalism
Listen to this story by Jacob Aere.

"This was more than vandalism. This was an attack on our community," Gloria said. "We will not shrug off hate against any San Diegan. Racism and bigotry in any form will not be tolerated in our city. We will identify the individual responsible for these hateful acts and hold them accountable."

The suspect in the vandalism at the University Christian Church is seen in a still image from a surveillance video released by the city of San Diego on Feb. 3, 2021.
City of San Diego
The suspect in the vandalism at the University Christian Church is seen in a still image from a surveillance video released by the city of San Diego on Feb. 3, 2021.

San Diego City Leaders Ask Public’s Help In Possible Hate Crime Vandal

Gloria and Nisleit were joined by City Council President Jennifer Campbell, Council President Pro-Tem Stephen Whitburn, City Attorney Mara Elliot, University Christian Church's senior pastor Rev. Caleb Lines, Rich's nightclub owner Ryan Bedrosian, San Diego Pride chair and director of diversity and community life at The Bishop's School David Thompson Jr., and San Diego Pride executive director Fernando Zweifach Lopez in denouncing the crime.

According to Nisleit, the recent acts of vandalism are the latest in a growing list of threats and criminal acts against members of the Black and LGBT communities in the Hillcrest neighborhood.

"Hateful acts of any kind will not be tolerated in our communities," Nisleit said. "I encourage any community member to contact the police department if they believe they have been a victim of hate so that all allegations can be thoroughly investigated and victims can seek justice."

The vandalism came just two days after someone removed two brightly colored doors that stood against pillars in front of the church. The doors were recovered and put back in place as part of an installation that states "God's Doors Are Always Open.”

The pink paint vandalism also came three weeks after someone splattered yellow paint on the Black Lives Matter sign at Rich's nightclub. It’s still unclear if the separate events are connected.

"I was disappointed, but not shocked, to learn of the vandalism," Thompson said. "It's clear that despite momentary milestones in our history, anti-Black racism and insidious white supremacist beliefs exist in the fabric of our nation's communities. However, I am relieved to see swift and thoughtful responses from leaders in San Diego to stand up and denounce these acts; I believe this is one moment of many to stand up and say, `No more."'

The University Cristian Church is responding to hate crimes by streaming a performance called “Colors of Love'' on Valentine's Day and supporting a special project for LGBTQ artists and artists of color.

“It is our deepest hope that something beautiful can be created from the hate that has occurred here in Hillcrest, because we know as long as we hope and as long that we love, beauty is possible," said Rev. Lines.

People who have witnessed these types of crimes were asked to contact the San Diego Police Department at (619) 531-2000.

"We must make clear that hate has no place in our community," Whitburn said. "As the councilmember representing District 3, I stand united with Mayor Gloria and our community leaders in affirming that Black lives matter, and acknowledging the intersectionality between our Black and LGBTQ+ communities. Together, we must ensure our neighborhoods are safe and welcoming for all."