Police Seek to Identify Men Seen Outside Hillcrest Bar Before Black Lives Matter Signs Were Vandalized

University Christian Church Rev. Lines said their rainbow doors were once again torn down, just hours before Wednesday's press conference

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The San Diego Police Department is asking for the public's help to identify two men who were seen outside a Hillcrest bar before two Black Lives Matter signs were splattered with pink paint -- acts that city leaders on Wednesday unified to denounce as acts of hate.

SDPD said on Wednesday an unidentified man was captured on surveillance video outside Rich's Nightclub on Unversity Avenue before 5 a.m. on Jan. 24, hours before the vandalism was discovered of a large Black Lives Matter sign above the bar, as well as a second sign above University Christian Church, several blocks away the same night.

A black-and-white photo taken from surveillance video was released showing the man in question.

A man believed to have splattered paint on two BLM signs in Hillcrest on Jan. 24, according to police.

The following day, SDPD said "new information has been received from the public and the police department is asking for additional help in identifying a second person if interest."

A second photo was released showing a second person along with the first man. The second person appeared to be hooded. Investigators released the photos with the hopes that someone can help identify the two people who were seen outside the bar.

SDPD released the following image on Thursday, showing a second man outside Rich's Nighclub on University Avenue the night before it was discovered splattered with paint.

Local leaders gathered Wednesday to express how seriously they were taking the incident. SDPD Chief David Nisleit joined Mayor Todd Gloria, City Council President Pro-Tem Stephen Whitburn, University Christian Church's Rev. Caleb Lines and members of the LGBTQ+ community stood in solidarity against hate crimes.

“While some might say that this is a small act of vandalism, we must call this for what it is, which is an act of hate," San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said Wednesday in front of the church. "As mayor of this city, I want to be extremely clear: There is no room for hate in San Diego.”

City leaders encouraged San Diegans to report any crime they see committed against people of color, the LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups to SDPD, either using their non-emergency line to file a police report or to report acts of vandalism through the city's Get It Done App.

Person of Interest in Hillcrest vandalism
A man believed to have splattered paint on two BLM signs in Hillcrest on Jan. 24, according to police.

"If you see hate crimes in your community, please do not brush them off as something small. As we have seen in recent months and years they are far from that, they have the potential for inciting greater violence," Gloria said.

City Attorney Mara Elliot said she was dedicated to ensuring people who commit hate crimes are held accountable.

Church in San Diego vandalized
A church in Hillcrest had signs outside vandalized.

The University Christian Church, which claims itself as the first "open and affirming congregation" in Southern California, has also on two recent occasions seen a tribute to the LGBTQ community outside their entrance vandalized; six doors, each painted in a different color of the rainbow with the phrase "God's Doors Are Always Open," were pulled off of pilars at the church's entrance. The most recent act was committed Tuesday night, according to Rev. Caleb Lines.

It was not clear if SDPD was investigating the acts as connected to the destruction of Black Lives Matter signs.

The church's senior pastor, Rev. Caleb Lines, said six doors, each painted in a different color of the rainbow with the phrase "God's Doors Are Always Open" and hung on pillars at their entrance, were also removed.

Our rainbow doors were once again ripped from the front pillars of the church early this morning. This time all of them. Tune in to Facebook live at 9 AM for a press conference to address this vandalism.

Posted by University Christian Church on Wednesday, February 3, 2021

“This vandalism is emblematic of a deep divide in our country where some people do not believe that Black lives matter or that LGBTQ+ lives have value," Lines said. "As a church, we believe that it is our faithful sacred duty to proudly proclaim that Black Lives Matter and that people should be granted the same rights and privileges regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The church said they have received an outpouring of support from people across the country following the acts of vandalism. A new BLM sign hangs above their church entrance, donated by a member of the community.

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