By Paula Katinas
CONEY ISLAND — Police are asking the public to help them find a man who brazenly climbed over a fence outside the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace and threw a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the ground on Sept. 11.
Cops, who are investigating the incident as a case of criminal mischief, released a video of the man committing the act.
Remarkably, the statue remained mostly intact — but suffered damage to the face, hands, and base — after the vandal threw it on the sidewalk.
Many parishioners cried when they were told about the vandalism, according to Father Javier Flores, the administrator of Our Lady of Solace.
“Our parishioners are very sad. Everyone is shocked,” Father Flores told The Tablet. “Neighbors saw what happened and called the police but the man fled very quickly.”
Parishioners are determined to raise money to repair the statue, Father Flores said.
The video released by the NYPD captures images of the man standing in front of the church and talking to another person. The suspect can then be seen climbing over the fence and toppling the statue before throwing it to the ground.
The suspect then proceeded to nearby Mermaid Avenue and fled on foot, police said.
Volunteers picked up the statue and brought it into the church, according to Father Flores.
Father Flores said the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace purchased the statue three years ago for $4,000. On Sunday, Sept. 13, he announced during all Masses that the statue had been targeted by vandals. Parishioners immediately started digging into their pockets to help.
“We want to raise the money for the statue by Dec. 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Father Flores said.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, named Patroness of the Americas in 1999 by St. John Paul II, is venerated by Mexicans and Latinos. The statue outside the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace is important to the whole Coney Island community.
“People would stop walking, stand in front, and pray to her. It’s like she watches over the whole community,” Father Flores said.
Police described the individual as a light-skinned male with a beard. He was last seen wearing a gray cap, a black shirt with the word “Brooklyn” on the front, and black shorts.
Anyone with information is asked to call the New York Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).
All calls are strictly confidential.
The Sept. 11 incident wasn’t the only time vandals have targeted a statue of the Virgin Mary in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
In July, a suspect defaced a Virgin Mary statue outside Cathedral Prep School and Seminary in Elmhurst. The vandalism was discovered by staff members at 7:30 a.m. on July 10, according to police, who said a video captured an image of a person approaching the statue and defacing it by writing the word “IDOL” on the front.
The statue was cleaned within days of the vandalism. Father James Kuroly, rector and president of Cathedral Prep, led a ceremony to re-dedicate the statue.