Police arrest suspect with ties to church vandalism in Oakland Gardens

Police arrest suspect with ties to church vandalism in Oakland Gardens
By Mark Hallum

A vandal who targeted the American Martyrs Parish in Oakland Gardens was slapped with hate crime charges after he was apprehended by police.

Religious statues in front of the house of worship — located at 79-43 Bell Blvd. — were shattered and destroyed, two of which had a combined value of $2,000, according to police.

The suspect, Lee Sung, 26, of Bellerose, was arrested shortly following the Feb. 23 incident and charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief for allegedly breaking the Blessed Mother, valued at $1,500, and the Sacred Heart, at around $500, statues, according to NYPD.

Other charges facing Sung are criminal contempt, aggravated harassment and an additional count of aggravated harassment in the second degree, cops said.

The aggravated harassment and criminal mischief both carry hate crime status, according to a police spokeswoman.

Father Frank Schwarz of American Martyrs expressed confusion as to why Sung would target the parish, which falls under the purview of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

“I just sincerely hope he tries to get the help he needs, I don’t know why he would do this, hope that he really gets the help he needs and realizes that God still loves him,” Schwarz said. “I just would like to know what he has against the church, what he has against this church, in particular. I don’t know if he has done this somewhere else, but I don’t know why he would target this facility. We have never done anything to him.”

Sung was allegedly seen on surveillance footage dragging the Blessed Mother statue about 25 feet before it was smashed, the diocese said.

The Sacred Heart was flung down a flight of stairs leading to the rectory.

Security cameras captured a man walking back and forth across the frame mostly in the shadows, while another camera facing the rectory door only depicts the Sacred Heart falling to the ground at the foot of the steps.

Recent months have seen American Martyrs the victim of other vandals. In December, the fingers from the statue of St. Isaac Jogues in the prayer garden were found bent backwards. In October, the bingo sign was found with damage.

Another man was arrested in August after security footage capture a vandal throwing a brick through the window of the church doors.

It is not clear if the individual incidents are related.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.