Suspects ID'd in theft, vandalism of Black Lives Matter signs

Marblehead PoliceThe suspect in the theft of a Black Lives Matter banner at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Mugford Street, Marblehead. 

Police in Wenham and Marblehead say they have identified suspects in the thefts and vandalism of Black Lives Matter signs in those communities.

Wenham Town Administrator Anthony Ansaldi told the Board of Selectmen Tuesday night that police received a call about a theft in progress on Saturday night and that officers apprehended two suspects, according to an online recording of the meeting.

Deputy police Chief Kevin DiNapoli, who was one of the responding officers, told selectmen that an investigation tied the suspects to two previous incidents of stolen Black Lives Matter signs. Police are also investigating a fourth incident, he said.

"It may end up being a total of four cases," DiNapoli told selectmen. He said police were working with the Essex District Attorney's office to determine what charges to file. Ansaldi told selectmen that the suspects were not from Wenham.

DiNapoli did not return a message seeking more information. Carrie Kimball, a spokeswoman for the DA's office, said the suspects were not arrested, but said police have submitted an application for a criminal complaint in Ipswich District Court. Kimball said the complaint would not be made public unless or until the clerk issues a criminal complaint.

In Marblehead, police posted a message on the department's Facebook page saying they had concluded their investigation into the vandalism of a Black Lives Matter banner at the Unitarian Universalist Church. The message said the matter has been referred to the clerk magistrate of the Lynn District Court, who will determine if there is probable cause for a criminal complaint to be issued.

Marblehead police Chief Robert Picariello said he had nothing further to say beyond the department's Facebook post.

The incident occurred on June 28 at the church on Mugford Street. Police released a video showing a man walking up to the area where a Black Lives Matter banner was hung, crouching over, and then walking away. Police did not release details of the damage to the sign. 

In Beverly, police are still investigating the theft of a Black Lives Matter flag from a flagpole outside City Hall on Cabot Street overnight on July 4 or 5. Police Chief John LeLacheur said Wednesday that police have interviewed several people but had no new information to release.

The incidents in Beverly and Marblehead sparked a protest outside Beverly City Hall on Tuesday, where about 75 people gathered for two hours to listen to speakers. Protest organizers said they plan to return to Beverly City Hall on Friday at 4 p.m. and march to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Marblehead. 

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535 or pleighton@salemnews.com.

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