NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A former NYPD officer has been arrested on charges he spray-painted anti-Semitic graffiti on cars and buildings in the heavily Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park.
Michael Setiawan was picked up after police received a 911 call Saturday evening about the swastikas and other anti-Semitic vandalism. He was arrested before dawn Sunday.
The 36-year-old faces charges of criminal mischief as a hate crime and aggravated harassment.
The former cop was questioned for hours at the 66 precinct before being taken away for a mental evaluation, CBS 2’s Don Champion reported.
Setiawan made strange faces and uttered a brief denial as he was taken away from the precinct for observation.
The spray-painted words were found on 15 vehicles and four buildings near the Bnos Zion synagogue and school run by the ultra-Orthodox Bobov community.
Surveillance video from outside of the Jewish girls school in Borough Park showed a man spray painting anti-Semitic graffiti, part of a spree that targeted about 20 locations in the heart of New York’s Jewish community, CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported.
“I’m very confident — and I believe the authorities as well — that this is the person responsible for the hatred that was spread throughout the Jewish community in Borough Park,” Assemblyman Dov Hikind told WCBS 880.
“People in the neighborhood here in Borough Park are upset,” Hikind, D-Brooklyn, said in a separate interview with 1010 WINS. “There are people who afraid. This is just a horrible thing, the messages of hate. Some of them that I can’t even repeat. Just a very shocking thing.”
“It’s bothersome that he is a former cop,” Asher Nussbaum said.
A break in the case came when a young boy saw the suspect tagging a car and took down his license plate number as he drove away.
Police say Setiawan was an officer in the New York City Police Department until 2007, serving in Brooklyn’s 69th precinct in the Canarsie neighborhood. He resigned him from this position, police said.
“The possibility that this was done by a former member of the NYPD makes that all the more shocking, but at the same time, the fact that the NYPD acted so swiftly and is to their credit,” city Councilman David Greenfield, D-Brooklyn, told 1010 WINS.
Setiawan and his parents share a home in Queens. His father told The Associated Press that he was awakened at 5 a.m. Sunday by a call from police. He then went to his son’s room and roused him. Minutes later, a detective showed up to arrest Setiawan, said his father, Thomas Setiawan.
“I asked my son, ‘What’s wrong? What happened? Is anybody hurt?'” the Indonesian immigrant said in a telephone interview, his voice rising with emotion in heavily accented English. “He said ‘No, don’t worry, nobody’s hurt.'”
Thomas Setiawan said his son asked him for the keys to the family car around 8 p.m. Saturday, saying he’d left something inside.
“Then we looked out, and the car was gone,” the elder Setiawan said, adding that he and his wife became worried.
He said their son has had mental health issues and that he was depressed and suicidal after leaving the police force. They didn’t know why he was no longer an officer, telling them only, “I want to quit.”
Before joining the force, Michael Setiawan had been laid off from a job at a Long Island cosmetics factory, Thomas Setiawan said.
On Sunday morning, after he was led away by police, his father said he and his wife were left with Michael Setiawan’s young son, who was visiting for the weekend. The former officer’s ex-wife later picked up the child to return to their home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Thomas Setiawan said.
The retired limousine driver said Michael Setiawan was 12 when the family emigrated from Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1989 after winning the green card lottery.
Michael Setiawan was to be arraigned later Sunday or Monday. His father said he did not yet have an attorney.
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