El Cajon Police Department

El Cajon Officer Builds Unlikely Alliance With Artists He Nearly Arrested

Sgt. Michael Murphy stopped three men for vandalism but decided that arresting the men would not be the best way to help the community.

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In a time of protest and political division, there is an unlikely story of teamwork in El Cajon. Sergeant Michael Murphy almost arrested three young men for tagging. Instead, he let them go and inadvertently created a unifying bridge in the community.

“We got a radio call of people spray painting on the wall,” said Murphy, as he recalled his graveyard shift on June 3.

When Murphy arrived, he saw three men walking away from the scene. The men were polite and admitted they were the ones painting the wall.

“We were angry. We were finding ways to lash out that wouldn’t impact as hard as these people rioting in the streets and stuff,” artist Gee Cabral said.

Cabral and his friends had been watching protests nationwide surrounding the death of George Floyd. They wanted to express a positive message while still addressing issues of racism and inequality.

“We didn’t want to be part of the destruction, even though we did vandalize a piece of the community, it doesn’t make us vandals,” Cabral said.

“I went and saw what they spray painted and saw it was nothing of hate, nothing angry. It was all about peace and love -- BLM (Black Lives Matter),” Murphy said.

The message of love in a time of social upheaval convinced Murphy that arresting the men was not the way to make a difference in his community.

“They damaged some property. So let’s fix that property together, and let's get that message out the correct way,” said Murphy.

The three artists were encouraged to paint a much larger message of peace and love. Instead of graffiti on a wall, they created a mural that will prominently be displayed at Meridian Church in El Cajon.

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“It shows we can work together. It’s not even about one interaction. It’s about how three gentlemen and an officer, we can look past skin color, uniform and just come together and make the city a better place,” Murphy said.

What could have been another trip to jail, ended with four men of different backgrounds building bridges and making their community a more peaceful place.

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