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Multiple Brooklyn Religious Sites Vandalized With Red Spray Paint

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A hate crimes investigation has been launched in southern Brooklyn, after vandals desecrated several religious sites.

As CBS 2's Janelle Burrell reported Tuesday, the crucifix and Virgin Mary statue outside St. Anselm Roman Catholic Church, at 365 83rd St. in Bay Ridge was desecrated so severely that it brought lifelong parishioner Susan Michalski to tears.

"I'm just heartbroken that this happened here," she said.

The crucifix and the statue were left covered in red spray paint. Just three weeks ago, the same statues were vandalized with a highlighter.

But the latest act hurts far worse, according to the Rev. Martin Cull.

"To see deliberate destruction at this scale was just astonishing," Cull said. "I almost felt like crying."

Police said the church is just one of several places targeted by a suspect, who is now in custody.

The suspect has been identified as Chris Papadimitropoulos, 55. He faced hate crime charges Tuesday night.

Papadimitropoulos -- who lives in the neighborhood -- was caught on surveillance cameras, according to police.

And it appeared that he did not discriminate in his vandalism.

Investigators said he spray-painted the word "no" at an entrance to the Bay Ridge Jewish Center, 8025 Fourth Ave.; and also used spray paint to deface the nearby the Union Church of Bay Ridge, 7915 Ridge Blvd.; and the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, 8401 Ridge Blvd.

In all, the suspect allegedly vandalized six locations and committed 11 acts of vandalism.

The NYPD said the suspect was picked up on the street near one of the crime scenes.

"We were able to identify him based on pictures and video taken at one of the scenes, and police officers identified him as wearing the same clothing -- the clothing was worn in the video," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Meanwhile, elected officials denounced the acts.

"This is very, very offensive to so many, and it really symbolizes, I think, hatred," said U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.)

Police have launched a hate crime investigation in response to the incidents.

"The statue's not hurt. It's the people that pray in front of that statue; their moment of peace in their day; little quiet," Father Cull said. "They're hurting."

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