Cholo Charged With Vandalizing Mexican-American Veterans Mural in Santa Ana

Logan’s mural masterpiece. Photo by Gabriel San Roman

The Orange County District Attorney’s office announced felony charges against a local gang member following the vandalism of a beloved Mexican-American war veterans mural in Santa Ana two months ago. District attorney Tony Rackauckas, Santa Ana police chief David Valentin and city councilman Juan Villegas gathered in front of artist Carlos Aguilar’s “Heroes Among Us” tribute in Logan Barrio yesterday afternoon for a press conference announcing the news. 

“With Memorial Day just behind us, frankly I’m pleased to announce that the Orange County District Attorney’s office has filed felony vandalism charges with a gang enhancement against Eric Alan Cabrera Mora,” said Rackauckas. “He’s a criminal street gang member and he’s accused of defacing the ‘Among Heroes’ mural that you see behind us here.” 

AHEM! That’s “Heroes Among Us,” T-Rack. 

“I have a Mexican-American heritage and I’m a veteran as well and so I take pride in both my heritage and my service but also the service of all of these great heroes who did so much for us to protect our freedom,” the DA added. “The act of defacing this beautiful mural disrespected the heroes who made Santa Ana and Orange County proud by defending our country.”

The OCDA is accusing Cabrera, a 20 year-old from Garden Grove, of tagging gang graffiti on the mural between March 11 and March 12. Later that morning, authorities say, Cabrera took his spray can over to a clothing store on First Street in Santa Ana, vandalizing the side of its wall around 2:30 a.m. Valentin explained during the press conference that surveillance video of the incident gave detectives their best lead in identifying the suspect through his license plate. The clue led Santa Ana police to Cabrera three days later, who was already in Anaheim police custody for an unrelated offense. When questioned, he confessed to the crime. According to the chief, news of the arrest “overjoyed” his staff.

The mural on the side of La Chiquita Market depicts nearly 200 Mexican-American war veterans, most of whom Logan residents who served in the Second World War. Aguilar started the art project in 2012, which became a four-year labor of love. Gang graffiti damaged 22 portraits in all, but work to restore “Heroes Among Us” is already underway. 

“We raised a little over $11,000 for the work,” said Villegas, also a veteran. “It was spearheaded by Mayor Pro Tem Michele Martinez and also there was contributions given by the city of Santa Ana and by the Santa Ana Police Officers Association.” Sam Romero, an 83-year-old longtime Logan resident and former marine, also spoke about the mural’s significance to the community.

“What you see here are my neighbors,” said Romero.”Believe me, we were gratified when we heard today that folks made an arrest.” The artist intends to apply a protective coat to prevent any future vandalism to the mural once restored. Romero also called on city officials to red curb the sidewalk in front of “Heroes Among Us” so big trucks can’t park and give cover for taggers. 

Cabrera faces two felony vandalism counts with the aforementioned gang enhancement. If convicted, he faces seven years and eight months in prison. A pre-trail hearing is set for June 6 at Central Justice Center in Santa Ana. 

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