2017-06-07 / Features

Cops Cuff Astoria Man In Graffiti Hate Spree

BY LIZ GOFF

Police last week arrested a vandal who scrawled nearly two dozen homophobic hate messages on walls and doors in Astoria since March 13.

Officers on routine patrol in the 114th Precinct took Yaacov Shemesh, 53, into custody on the night of June 1 after they recognized him from an NYPD wanted poster, police officials said.

Police recovered surveillance footage showing a suspect, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a baseball cap pulled down over his face, as he sprayed a hate message on an Astoria building that houses the offices of NYS Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas. The image was posted online and released to the media as part of the NYPD’s all-out effort to catch the culprit. The same building was defaced at least two times during the hate-filled crime spree, authorities said.

Police said recently recovered surveillance footage showed the suspect using former President Barack Obama’s name as part of an anti-gay message scrawled on a set of garage doors on 23rd Street near 28th Avenue in the early hours of May 2. Additional surveillance footage recovered by police showed the suspect scrawling the same message on the two doors three times in recent weeks, police said. The messages contained anti-gay remarks and remarks that were derogatory to former President Barack Obama, police officials said.

Police believe the same suspect spray-painted the messages on surfaces in Astoria 22 times since March 13.

Yaacov Shemesh, of Astoria, was charged with writing the 22 hate-filled messages, along with multiple counts of aggravated harassment and criminal mischief.

In a statement released by his office on June 2, Gianaris praised officers and officials at the 114th Precinct and the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force for their efforts to capture Shemesh.

“The acts of senseless vandalism our community was forced to endure in recent months were outrageous and unacceptable,” Gianaris said. “I thank the men and women of the 114th Precinct and the Queens District Attorney’s office, especially

Dep. Inspector Peter Fortune, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and Assistant District Attorney Barry Frankenstein for their hard work and successful efforts to apprehend the suspect and bring him to justice,” Gianaris said. “There is no amount of bigotry or xenophobia that can tear our diverse neighborhood apart.”

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