Quick Take:

The Santa Cruz Police Department is working through evidence and leads related to the July vandalism of the downtown Black Lives Matter mural. Police chief Bernie Escalante says he hopes that the case will be resolved soon, and SC Equity Collab is beginning to look toward a repainting.

Santa Cruz Police Chief Bernie Escalante said his department is making progress on its investigation into the vandalism of a Black Lives Matters mural in front of city hall and hopes it can soon resolve the case.

“We are still working diligently on the case and I’m hoping in the near future we’ll have the case resolved,” he told Lookout on Monday. “It’s just taking a little bit of time to dot all of our I’s and cross all our T’s.”

On July 29, the City of Santa Cruz received a report of blue paint splattered across a few of the mural’s letters just a month after the community came together to repaint the mural, which had been vandalized by two men in 2021.

Police quickly determined that the latest incident was an intentional act of vandalism after surveillance footage from Santa Cruz City Hall showed a man on a red motorized scooter throwing the blue paint across the mural.

In late September, SCPD shared via social media that it was investigating leads, examining evidence and making the case a priority. Escalante told Lookout on Monday that he feels that the investigation is moving in the right direction.

“We’re staying the course and following up on the leads we have,” he said. He declined to discuss details of the leads police are following to not jeopardize the ongoing investigation. “Some leads are better than others, but we feel like we’re making progress.”

Escalante said that a license plate number for the scooter was not visible in the surveillance footage from around the mural. He added that investigators are carefully compiling evidence to put together the best case possible for the district attorney’s office to file charges. “It takes time to turn over every rock, if you will,” he said.

Escalante also added that SCPD is looking into ways to improve surveillance and security around the city and better use technology to improve its investigative capabilities. That includes license plate reading systems, improved nighttime surveillance, and the location of existing and potential new cameras.

Although the investigation remains open and ongoing, SC Equity Collab — the initiative that spearheaded the mural project in the wake of the 2020 murder of George Floyd — is moving toward a plan for repair.

Collab co-founder Sean McGowen said the group is working with the city to figure out a timeline for repainting, but there is currently no set date. However, he said that there might be help from some familiar faces.

McGowen said that the group is in touch with the Conflict Resolution Center of Santa Cruz County to bring Brandon Bochat and Hagan Warner — the two men convicted last fall of doing burnouts over the mural in July 2021 — out to the next repainting to assist as they did at the previous repainting this summer.

“Warner actually reached out to us after he heard about the most recent incident,” said McGowen. He added that a timeline for the repainting would likely be clearer in the coming month.

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Max Chun is the general-assignment correspondent at Lookout Santa Cruz. Max’s position has pulled him in many different directions, seeing him cover development, COVID, the opioid crisis, labor, courts...