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‘It’s Disgusting, It’s Disgraceful’: San Diego Police Will Not Pursue Criminal Investigation After Mural of Ahmaud Arbery Was Defaced

A California mural honoring Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man who was chased and later shot and killed while jogging in a suburban Georgia neighborhood, has been defaced.

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, it’s unclear when the portrait of Arbery was destroyed with light pink paint. The 25-year-old’s image was featured on what are now-boarded up windows of Pekin Cafe Chop Suey restaurant, located on University Ave. 

A spokesperson for the San Diego Police Department, Lt. Adma Sharki, said his office was made aware of the vandalism only after reporters inquired about the incident on Tuesday, Nov. 30, revealing that no one had reported it. When authorities contacted the property owners, they declined to pursue a criminal investigation.

Ahmaud Arbery mural (Screengrab San Diego Union-Tribune)

The mural also featured Breonna Taylor, an EMT who was fatally shot by Louisville police officers in her apartment on March 13, 2020, after her boyfriend fired at plain-clothes officers, who were carrying out a no-knock warrant. 

Johnny Pucci, the artist behind the mural, told reporters that he was surprised the mural wasn’t destroyed sooner. “Given the state of the nation I’m really surprised that it’s lasted this long,” the 35-year-old artist said. The tribute was painted just days after George Floyd died while in the custody of Minneapolis police in May 2020. 

Pucci said multiple people reached out to him via Instagram, informing him of the damage, many of whom the artist said were angered by the incident, except him. “I am not angry,” Pucci said.

“It doesn’t make me angry, it just disappoints me. How is it somebody sees a painting of somebody that was murdered, with a message that says, ‘Spread love,’ and they say, ‘No, I don’t like it?’ ” He plans to repair the mural when he returns from a trip out of the country.

Pamuela Halliwell, a North Park resident and president of the San Diego Black LGBTQ Coalition, told the outlet she was “startled” when she initially noticed the damage last month while she was driving home from work. The scene prompted her to pull over and take a photo, which she later shared on her social media page. 

“It’s disgusting, it’s disgraceful, it’s disappointing and completely disrespectful of the fact that (Arbery) was killed by these three people who had no business interacting with him in the first place,” she told reporters. 

Last November, the three men involved in Arbery’s murder, Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, were all convicted of felony murder and false imprisonment, aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit a felony. They are also facing federal hate crime charges. The federal trial is set to start in February.

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