.BLM Mural Vandalism Suspect Arrested

Six-month investigation finds vandalism was not a hate crime

Santa Cruz Police arrested a man Tuesday on suspicion of vandalizing the Black Lives Matter public mural on Center Street in downtown Santa Cruz last summer.

Deputy Chief Jon Bush said investigators arrested Taj Blum for felony vandalism done to the mural on the evening of July 29, 2023. After receiving reports of the vandalism, officers found the mural splattered with blue paint.

After more than six months of investigation, authorities were able to obtain enough evidence to stack up a case against Blum.  

Investigators reviewed surveillance video in which a suspect is seen committing the vandalism. A possible vehicle and person of interest were subsequently identified. After the case was brought to the District Attorney’s Office to determine the motive in the case, Bush said that “at this time, no evidence supports this being a hate crime.”

It’s not the first time the mural has been vandalized. In 2021 Hagan Warner and Brandon Bochat burned truck tire marks across the mural in what prosecutors described as a hate crime for felony vandalism. They were sentenced to 90 days in jail and ordered to pay $19,000 in restitution, two years of probation and 144 hours of community service. 

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The mural was painted in 2020 and was part of nationwide protests for racial justice and police accountability after George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by Minneapolis Police in May 2020.

1 COMMENT

  1. It’s time to pave the billboard over. Period. It has caused nothing but trouble. George Floyd died of a drug overdose according to the autopsy.

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Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.
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