Ex New York City officer charged with spraying anti-Semitic graffiti in Jewish neighbourhood

Verena Dobnik / The Associated Press
May 4, 2014 09:27 PM

NEW YORK, N.Y. - A former New York City police officer was arrested on charges he spray-painted anti-Semitic profanities on cars and buildings in a mostly Jewish Brooklyn neighbourhood — including the front doors of a religious elementary school.

Michael Setiawan was picked up before dawn Sunday after police received an emergency dispatch call on Saturday evening about the swastikas, and other anti-Semitic graffiti in Borough Park, a neighbourhood in the borough of Brooklyn.

The 36-year-old faces charges of criminal mischief and aggravated harassment as hate crimes.

Setiawan was a city officer until 2007, serving in Brooklyn's 69th precinct in the Canarsie neighbourhood, police said.

The words spray-painted in red were found on 15 vehicles and four buildings near the Bnos Zion synagogue and school run by the ultra-Orthodox Bobov community. A surveillance camera at the school captured a suspect; police blurred out the face in the video. They would not immediately say whether the man was Setiawan.

Setiawan and his parents share a home in Queens. His father told The Associated Press that he was awakened at 5 a.m. Sunday by a call from police. He then went to his son's room and roused him. Minutes later, a detective showed up to arrest Setiawan, said his father, Thomas Setiawan.

"I asked my son, 'What's wrong? What happened? Is anybody hurt?'" the Indonesian immigrant said in a telephone interview, his voice rising with emotion. "He said 'No, don't worry, nobody's hurt.'"

But people did get hurt, said state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents the area.

"This was not a victimless crime," Hikind said. "We have many Holocaust survivors here, many elderly people and children who are appropriately frightened by unprovoked hate attacks upon their schools and community. ... Hate attacks on our community will not go unpunished."

Thomas Setiawan said his son asked him for the keys to the family car around 8 p.m. Saturday, saying he'd left something inside.

"Then we looked out, and the car was gone," the elder Setiawan said, adding that he and his wife became worried.

He said their son has had mental health issues and that he was depressed and suicidal after leaving the police force. They didn't know why he was no longer an officer, telling them only, "I want to quit."

Before joining the force, Michael Setiawan had been laid off from a job at a Long Island cosmetics factory, Thomas Setiawan said.

On Sunday morning, after he was led away by police, his father said he and his wife were left with Michael Setiawan's young son, who was visiting for the weekend. The former officer's ex-wife later picked up the child to return to their home in Brooklyn's Bay Ridge, Thomas Setiawan said.

The retired limousine driver said Michael Setiawan was 12 when the family emigrated from Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1989 after winning the green card lottery, which gave them legal residency.

Michael Setiawan was to be arraigned later Sunday or Monday. His father said he did not yet have an attorney.


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