BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Baton Rouge Police Department is currently searching for the person(s) responsible for vandalizing the Historic Sweet Olive Cemetery.
Police believe the cemetery was vandalized over the weekend (Jan. 18 and 19) and that the individual(s) responsible may have also committed similar acts in the area. No suspects have been identified at this time though, and the case remains under investigation.
On Monday, Jan. 20, a cleanup event of the cemetery was held, but organizers say they were not able to clean all of the graffiti. The sign itself is made of metal and reportedly requires a different type of paint in order to paint over the graffiti.
However one Good Samaritan came back Tuesday to clean off the rest of the graffiti from the sign in front of Sweet Olive. Meanwhile, there’s more graffiti at a cemetery just blocks away.
"Guess this caught my attention," said Dale Flowers, a neighbor.
Flowers saw the freshly tagged sign in front of Sweet Olive when he was passing by on S 22nd Street.
"This is our neighborhood, this is a very historic site in our community," said Flowers.
On Tuesday, he took matters into his own hands to clean off the spray paint.
“I went to Home Depot and asked them what I needed. They gave me some some paint remover. I purchased some stripper, and I just wanted to touch to see if it works and it works,” said Flowers.
Sweet Olive was the first cemetery for African Americans incorporated into Baton Rouge city limits.
“There’s easily 100 marked veterans’ graves, and I’m sure there’s a lot of other veterans that are buried here,” said Tommy Straight with the Capital Area Veterans Association.
Straight and his group have cleaned up the cemetery for four years now every MLK Day, but he has never seen the sign look like that.
“It’s very disrespectful, and they’re just being punks. They don’t know any better,” said Straight.
There’s also graffiti on the brick along one side of the cemetery. Just blocks away on Florida Boulevard, the Baton Rouge National Cemetery, which houses possibly thousands of deceased veterans, was tagged as well.
Councilwoman Tara Wicker, District 10, has noticed the disturbing trend lately throughout her district.
“I don’t know if it’s someone that’s suffering from a mental illness or if they are really trying to send us a message as a community, but we need to wake up and pay attention and get it down,” Wicker told WAFB back on Jan. 8.
BRPD says it’s possible the people who vandalized the cemeteries are also responsible for tagging multiple buildings throughout the area.
“We feel that they are connected. We don’t have the extent of the dollar amount to determine if there’s a misdemeanor or a felony, but we’re pushing forward our investigation in hopes we can get some information,” said Sgt. L’Jean McKneely with the Baton Rouge Police Department.
Wicker says all the graffiti in her district is getting ridiculous and is urging residents to check their cameras to see if they can help police catch the taggers. Anyone with info on the case should call Crime Stoppers at 225-344-7867.