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Elusive Brighton 'Tree Ninja' Captured, Police Say

BOSTON (CBS) -- Trees can breathe easy in Brighton - police say the "tree ninja" is in custody.

For several years, someone has been engaged in periodic botanical brutality, killing or damaging young trees that were planted in Brighton.

Flyers posted in the neighborhood have warned residents about the "master of evasion" who has cost the community thousands of dollars in tree removal spending.

tree ninja
Tree ninja poster (Photo credit @PlunkettPrime)

"The tree killer has now moved on to damaging and destroying flowering shrubs and bushes. YOURS COULD BE NEXT," the poster reads.

Over the past few weeks, detectives have been gathering video evidence. They set up surveillance in the area of the Brighton Elks Club to try and nab the culprit.

On Wednesday, police say 65-year-old Joseph Rizza showed up and began attacking a tree. As detectives approached him, they say Rizza tried to hide a hammer he'd been using, but it was too late.

The so-called tree ninja was hauled into court, and charged with five counts of willful and malicious destruction of property.

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