Arrest Made in Vandalism of Santa Ana Mural

SANTA ANA (CNS) - A 20-year-old convicted burglar suspected of  vandalizing a Santa Ana mural that pays tribute to Mexican-American veterans was charged today with a pair of felonies.

Eric Alan Cabrera was charged with one count of gang-related vandalism and a count of vandalism causing more than $400 in damage, both felonies. He also faces a sentencing enhancement for gang activity.

One of the charges relates to the mural vandalism, while the other involves alleged tagging of a business in Santa Ana. He is due in court for a pretrial hearing June 6.

Cabrera pleaded guilty May 23 to two counts of burglary and was immediately sentenced to six months in jail. He was arrested for the burglary in Anaheim on March 15, just four days after the mural was damaged, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.

While he was in custody, police confronted him and asked if he was involved in the mural vandalism, but he denied having anything to do with it, Bertagna said. When detectives found surveillance video of Cabrera damaging another building in Santa Ana, investigators confronted him again and he confessed to both crimes, Bertagna said.

Police said surveillance video also captured a license plate on the mural-vandalism suspect's vehicle, and it helped point detectives to Cabrera.

The vandalism caused $6,000 to $10,000 in damage to the mural, Bertagna said. A Santa Ana police officer helped raise money to repair the mural because his father was pictured in it. The ``Among Heroes'' mural at the Chiquita grocery store at 902 E. Washington St. is still being repaired.

The mural features nearly 200 portraits of Mexican-American men and women who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. It was defaced twice in March.

Painted by construction worker Carlos Aguilar over five years, the mural is a source of pride in the community. Two separate efforts helped raise more than $10,000 to repair the mural.

The vandalism ``disrespected the heroes who made Santa Ana and Orange County proud by defending our country,'' District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said. He called it a senseless gang-related act aimed at causing fear in the community.

Cabrera faces up to seven years and eight months in prison if convicted.

Photo: Getty Images

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