Men convicted of vandalizing BLM mural at Santa Cruz City Hall expected to help with upcoming repainting

The damage to the Black Lives Matters mural in July 2021.
(Via Santa Cruz Police Department)

The vandalized Black Lives Matter mural will finally be repaired June 24, with defendants Brandon Bochat and Hagan Warner present. SC Equity Collab expects to begin holding annual touch-up events for the mural going forward.

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Two men who vandalized a Black Lives Matter mural in front of Santa Cruz City Hall are expected to participate in efforts to finally repaint the mural later this month and offer an apology for their actions.

Brandon Bochat of Santa Cruz and Hagan Warner of Boulder Creek — ages 20 and 19, respectively, at the time of the crime — pleaded no contest and were sentenced in November to two years of probation for doing burnouts over the painting in July 2021. The men were also ordered to perform 144 hours of community service and pay nearly $20,000 in restitution, far below the $114,000 originally sought by the prosecution.

Nearly two years after the vandalism, the mural is finally scheduled to be repainted June 24. Sean McGowen, co-founder of SC Equity Collab — the initiative that spearheaded the mural project inspired by 2020’s racial justice movement in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder — said that both men are expected to participate in the repairs.

He said Warner met in person with Black leaders and local leaders in nonviolence during a closed-session discussion Sunday.

On Friday, Judge Syda Cogliati sentenced the men accused of vandalizing the Black Lives Matter mural outside of Santa...

“Going into it I was a little apprehensive, but after leaving that room, I think everyone felt positive and it turned out to be a very cathartic process,” said McGowen, adding that Warner agreed to help repaint and give an apology in person. “I could see that [Warner] was nervous coming into it, but by the end it feels like change happened. Hard truths were spoken, and he took it well.”

McGowen said that Bochat has not agreed to the repainting and apology in person, but that he has heard that Bochat has agreed to it through the Conflict Resolution Center of Santa Cruz County. He also said that the two men are preparing for an eight-week program created by SC Equity Collab and Santa Cruz County-based organization Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ).

Jonathan Cruz, chief deputy public defender for Santa Cruz County, said he could not give specifics about what Bochat has agreed to, but that he is “in compliance with his sentence, part of which is participating in restorative justice.”

Warner’s attorney, Ed Sidawi, did not respond to requests for comment.

The tire tracks left on the Black Lives Matter mural in downtown Santa Cruz in July 2021.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

McGowen said he is “95% confident” that the event will occur June 24. SC Equity Collab has a permit authorizing the group to conduct the mural repair on the city road that is valid through 2030. It is working with the city public works department to officially secure the date.

Now that the repair is imminent, McGowen said that the collab will host annual touch-ups every year, something it always planned to do.

“The reason we didn’t have one last year is because we were waiting for the outcome” of the court case, he said. “This is both the annual touch-up and the repair.”

SC Equity Collab is mostly paying out of pocket for materials for the event itself, McGowen said, as the group has received only about $500 of the $19,623 in restitution Bochat and Warner have to pay.

“We did receive a grant from Rise Together that’s helping pay for this, but just the permits alone are a lot of money,” he said, noting that the street barricades alone cost more than $700 per day. “And we don’t want to ask anyone outside of our organization to volunteer and work for free, so it all adds up.”

Cruz said that the men are not required to pay the full sum of restitution until the end of their two years of probation, but in many cases, he said it’s unfeasible for clients to pay the full amount in the required time. Should that be the case, the men will work with the probation department to set up a payment plan, Cruz said.

The preliminary hearing for the two alleged vandals of the downtown Black Lives Matter mural is slated for Oct. 7, and...


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