Police are now investigating two incidents of vandalism in Garner that they say encourage the killing of police officers.
The first incident was discovered late Friday morning on the side of the police department’s new headquarters building. The phrase “Kill a cop save a child” was spray-painted in white over a mural painted by local artist Vince Wood.
The second was discovered Monday morning by police and property owners at the back of businesses in the Garner Village shopping center, off Aversboro Road near U.S. 70, less than a mile from the police station.
Joe Sample, who manages the shopping center property, said eight doors were spray-painted with the same message.
Police Chief Brandon Zuidema said he believes the two incidents could be connected. With Mayor Ronnie Williams standing by, Zuidema held a press conference Monday in front of the mural and said the message will not be tolerated.
“That message is offensive. That message is disgusting,” Zuidema said. “That language has absolutely no place anywhere in society and certainly not in Garner.”
Zuidema said the sentiment behind the message was not one shared by the community.
“This is the act of a coward working under the anonymity of dark and being able to slip in and do something and leave,” he said.
Garner police originally offered $1,000 for any information leading to the arrest of the person who vandalized the mural, but have since upped the reward to $5,000 with the help of the town and businesses that were tagged.
Zuidema said there were no cameras near the shopping center nor the new police station. Police have not moved into the building, and the mural had not been completed.
Zuidema said the police department is treating these incidents as if they are a real threat to the police department. He said he thinks it would be foolish to assume anything else.
“We come to work every day recognizing that that could be the day you face a serious injury, a gunshot or other things,” Zuidema said. “They shouldn’t have to worry about someone doing something like this to put their lives in danger. They shouldn’t have to worry like the cop in Texas did that was pumping gas and got shot.”
The police department set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money to repair $2,000 in damage to the mural, Zuidema said. By late afternoon, it had received more than $800 in donations. The town paid $9,000 for the mural.
Zuidema said the department is talking with the Wake County District Attorney’s Office about possible charges to press when someone is caught.
On Twitter on Sunday afternoon, Zuidema likened the vandalism to a hate crime.
“If you have an issue with the Garner Police, then step forward and tell me,” Zuidema tweeted. “Disgusting act with absolutely no justification or reason.”
Wood, the artist, says he plans to repair the damage and make the mural better than they were.