Homeless man charged in 9/11 memorial vandalism

By Jennifer Bain and Natasha Velez New York Post

A mentally-troubled homeless man was charged with criminal mischief Saturday forallegedly smearing white paint on Coney Island’s 9/11 memorial, an act of vandalism that had left community leaders outraged.

“I’m sorry for whatever I did,” the disheveled suspect, Elliot Baez, 58, told a Post reporter as cops took him to the 60th Precinct. “I just came to Coney Island for a suntan,” he added.

Baez was arrested after a tipster bicyclist told cops who were guarding the memorial Saturday morning that a man walking the Boardwalk looked just like the person caught on surveillance video defacing the memorial, which adorns a wall in MCU Park, home of the Cyclones baseball team.

Police had originally thought from the video that they were seeking a female suspect.

Law enforcement sources said Baez will not be charged with a hate crime for the bizarre finger-painting, which left streaks of white along the memorial’s laser-engraved portraits.

The portrait of hero police officer Moira Smith — the only female member of the NYPD killed on 9/11 — was ringed in white, apparently singled out. The paint was easily cleaned off the memorial.

It made no difference if the vandalism was a hate crime or not, said the district manager of the local community board, Chuck Reichenthal. “This is inexcusable,” he said. “I don’t care who did it.”

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