Panthic

Vandal who spray-painted gurdwara near LA spared hate crime charge

By Anju Kaur | January 15, 2016
Brodie Durazo, 21, apologizing to the sangat at Gurdwara Singh Sabha, Buena Park, California, on Dec. 13. He was charged with felony and misdemeanor vandalism, but not hate crime.

Brodie Durazo, 21, apologizing to the sangat at Gurdwara Singh Sabha, Buena Park, California, on Dec. 13. He was charged with felony and misdemeanor vandalism, but not hate crime.

It was Divine intervention. California man will not be charged with a hate crime for spray-painting gang graffiti on the parking lot walls of a gurdwara near Los Angeles, including “(explicative) ISIS” on a semitractor-trailer parked there, on Dec. 6.

Brodie Durazo, 21, went to the Gurdwara Singh Sabha, in Buena Park, to apologize for the vandalism, on Dec. 13. 
 
“Not only did I disrespect you, your religion and your beliefs, but I also disgraced myself, my family and my Christian beliefs, and our Highest Power, as well,” Durazo said. “There isn’t even the right amount of words to explain my apology or and how deeply sorry I am.”
 
“He studied Sikhism before he came,” said Inderjot Singh, president of the gurdwara. “We asked him why he did it. He did not have an answer.”
 
The sangat heard his apology and voiced jaikaaraas of forgiveness, but that did not prevent the Orange County District Attorney’s Office from leveling criminal charges against him. 
 
“It is our duty if a crime is committed,” said Roxi Fyad, spokeswoman for the district attorney. “We prosecute for the people.”
 
On Jan. 11, Durazo was charged with one felony count of vandalism of a religious property, and two misdemeanor counts each of vandalism under $400. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of three years in state prison. 
 
Missing from the charges is a count of hate crime, specifically for the explicative on the semitractor-trailer. It drove away by the time police officers arrived at the scene. 
 
“I know your guys’ faith and church has nothing to do with the Muslim religion or Islam,” Durazo said. “That is why I did not write the profanity on your walls or temple.” 
 
The only reason he wrote the profanity on the semitractor-trailer was to use it as a mobile billboard to display his message as it travelled through the state or through the country, he said.
 
Whatever the reason, it may have been his saving Grace. Neither the truck nor the driver could be located. 
 
“We evaluated the case based on all the available evidence, and we filed the appropriate charges based on the evidence,” Fyad told SFP.
 
“But the temple can file a civil charge,” she also said. It is their option. 
 
The Sikh Coalition, which represents the gurdwara, will not rule out a lawsuit.
 
“If we take further legal action, we will let you know,” said Mark Reading-Smith, the Sikh Coalition’s press officer. "It's an ongoing case, one that we're presently monitoring closely." 
 
Durazo had also spray-painted a nearby property the same day. The owners dropped the complaint in exchange for his cleaning the graffiti. On Dec. 9, Durazo also admitted to the graffiti at the gurdwara, and was arrested for vandalism of a place of worship.
 
The gang-style graffiti, known as “tagging,” easily led the Buena Park Police Department’s gang unit to Durazo. It resembled traditional markings made by Southern California’s Hispanic gangs, said Cpl. Bret Carter, press officer of the police department.
 
The first part identifies the gang. "SSBP" refers to the South Side Barrio Pobre neighborhood gang. The second part identifies the city. "AHM" is AnaHeiM. The three dots with two lines is the Mayan number 13. And the last part is the message: “(explicative) ISIS.”
 
The original image circulated on the Internet has a factual error. The graffiti does not say "Islahm".
 
Sikhs had been on heightened alert of backlash from the Nov. 2 workplace shooting in nearby San Bernardino where 14 people were killed and 21 injured. The shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the FBI said. Both were killed in a police shoot out.
 
Durazo posted $20,000 bail on Jan.11. He will be arraigned on Feb. 8.
 
 
Transcript of apology
 
Inderjot Singh:  Last week, as you know, we has an incident of graffiti vandalism. We reported to the police right away. The police has helped us a lot. The provided us with greater security. And a lot of media covered it. The result of which is that the person who did the graffiti, he experienced an awakening inside, and contacted the Sikh Coalition, which had taken our case, and requested that he address the gurdwara’s sangat and ask for forgiveness. He is here today. His name is Brody. 
 
Brodie Durazo:  I wrote this letter here for everybody that is present and all of your religion. 
 
To Whom It May Concern:  Honestly, I don’t even know where to start with this letter. The amount of shame I feel and brought upon myself now I can’t even begin to explain. Not only did I disrespect you, your religion, and your beliefs, but I also disgraced myself, my family and my Christian beliefs, and our Highest Power, as well. There isn’t even the right amount of words to explain my apology or and how deeply sorry I am. I never meant to bring distress upon your church or congregations. There isn’t the right amount of words to explain for my actions. But the truth is it was an idiotic decision I made while intoxicated. I consumed heavy amounts of alcohol that night and made the poor decision to graffiti random locations. I know your guys’ faith and church has nothing to do with the Muslim religion or Islam. That is why I did not write the profanity on your walls or temple. The only reason I wrote what I wrote on the truck was because I was intoxicated and because I figured the truck travels through the state and through the country. I honestly wish I could turn back the hands of time and prevent myself from doing something with such stupidity to it. I’m not asking for forgiveness because I know judgment comes from God’s hands. I just want to assure to you and anyone of your faith that I never meant no harm whatsoever.  It was a poor decision and a poor mind state and I let my youth and the alcohol get the better of me. Since the ignorant decision I’ve made, I have actually come to a point where it has become difficult to deal with myself. I’ve lost countless nights of sleep since this incident. I’ve shed so many tears to my daughter and my fiancé. I cannot imagine the amount of stress or tension that I’ve brought upon your temple, especially with what is going on in this world at this time. I do offer my sincere apologies, and with all being said, hope that you all can come to a realization that I did not mean for the gurdwara to feel targeted. I have lived alongside this temple for many years of my life and have never once seen you as anything but a peaceful people. I just hope that with me, in my presence, that you can see is all I want is for peace as well. Thank you very much.
 
Sangat:  Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal!
 
Inderjot Singh:  We did not approach him. He confessed by himself. We asked that he come to the gurdwara and ask for forgiveness in front of Guru Sahib and the sangat. Now, whatever the law enforcement, police department, decides to do, they will take the case forward. We didn’t stop him. The hate inside him, according to the basic principle of our Sikhi, if it can be transformed into love, in front of Guru Sahib, by doing mutha tayt, that is what we are doing. We are educating him about our faith so that the hate that came inside him at the time can be changed to love, and that this kind of incident never happens again. 
 
Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh.