Culver City Edition

Accused Venice memorial wall vandal pleads not guilty

LOS ANGELES — One of two men accused of defacing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Venice just before Memorial Day pleaded not guilty Oct. 20 to vandalism charges.

Luis Daniel Medina, also known as “Pheb,” was arrested late last month and charged with one felony count of vandalism with over $400 in damage and one misdemeanor count of possession of tools to commit vandalism or graffiti.

Another man, Angel “Liter” Castro, 24, was charged July 15 with a felony count of vandalism with over $400 in damage, along with an allegation that he was convicted of robbery in 2015. He is awaiting a pretrial hearing Nov. 16 at the Airport Branch Courthouse in Los Angeles.

Medina, 20, of Los Angeles, and Castro are accused of vandalizing the Veterans Memorial Wall, which is on the side of a building at a bus yard on Pacific Avenue near Sunset Court. Prosecutors said the vandalism occurred on May 26.

“Suspect Castro admitted to his role in the vandalism of the Veterans Memorial Wall,” Ramon Montenegro of the sheriff’s Transit Policing Division said shortly after Castro’s arrest in July. He has remained in county jail since then.

Medina was arrested Sept. 28 and released on bond a day later, according to jail records.

Vandals sprayed a thick sheen of silver paint over most of the 2,273 names of Vietnam veterans on the memorial.

The monikers “Liter” and “Pheb” were among the names found at the scene, along with “Noner” and “Snake,” authorities said.

If convicted as charged, Medina faces more than three years in jail and Castro could face up to six years in state prison, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Painted in the early 1990s, the mural has a message at the top reading “You Are Not Forgotten” and bears the names of the soldiers counted as prisoners of war or missing in action in Vietnam.

Though most, if not all, of the paint was removed by volunteers before Memorial Day, the decades-old mural had no protective anti-graffiti coating so some of the original mural was destroyed in the process.

City Councilman Mike Bonin called the graffiti a “horrible insult to those who paid the sacrifice for their nation.”

Bonin called on members of the public to provide photos to help in the restoration because the mural’s artist, Peter Stewart, is deceased.

City and county officials offered $30,000 in reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of all those involved.