Vincent Martinez of Sarasota charged with felony hate crimes for defacing exterior walls at Temple Emanu-El and Temple Sinai
Just after 4 p.m. on July 28, detectives with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office arrested a suspect in vandalism cases involving anti-Semitic graffiti spray-painted on two Jewish synagogues in the county, the office reported.
Vincent Martinez, 21, of 5833 Driftwood Ave. in Sarasota — located just south of Phillippi Estate Park on South Tamiami Trail — was booked into the Sarasota County Correctional Facility, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Martinez faces three third-degree felony counts of Criminal Mischief by Defacing and Damaging a Synagogue, all classified as felony hate crimes, a Sheriff’s Office news release explained.
On July 24, when the department first identified Martinez as the suspect, it also noted that he was at a secure medical facility. That day, the Sheriff’s Office announced that it would be charging him in connection with an incident that occurred on April 2 and two others reported on July 15.
On July 30, Sheriff’s Office records show, Martinez was released on total bond of $45,000 bond — $15,000 for each count.
Security cameras captured video of a man on April 2 who was spray-painting multiple swastikas on exterior walls of Temple Emanu-El, which is located at 151 McIntosh Road, a Sheriff’s Office news release noted.
The estimated value of that damage, the Sheriff’s Office report said, was put at $1,000.
Then, about 2 a.m. on July 15, a man again was visible in video surveillance, spray-painting several swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti at Temple Emanu-El, the news release noted.
After finishing with the swastikas, the Sheriff’s Office report said, the suspect spent 10 to 15 minutes spray-painting profanity and other slurs.
The estimated value of the damage inflicted on Temple Emanu-El on July 15 also was estimated at $1,000, the report said.
A second incident on July 15 began about 2:30 a.m. at Temple Sinai, which is located at 4631 S. Lockwood Ridge Road in Sarasota, the report added. Again, as seen in video surveillance footage, the suspect spray-painted swastikas, as well as slurs, on the exterior walls over a period of about 10 to 15 minutes, the report said. That damage also was estimated at $1,000.
Following the Sheriff’s Office’s release of images and video from each incident, through its social media accounts, detectives received information identifying Vincent Martinez as a possible suspect, the release pointed out.
“Multiple citizens” who were familiar with Martinez contacted the Sheriff’s Office, the report indicated, to suggest that he was the suspect.
The investigation also revealed that Martinez used a nearby ATM shortly after the April incident at Temple Emanu-El, the report said; he was wearing the same clothing seen in synagogue security footage. Further, the vehicle captured on the ATM surveillance video was a 2008 black Honda Pilot, which detectives determined to be registered to Martinez at that time, the report noted.
Additionally, detectives were able to link Martinez to the July incidents through cell phone records, the news release explained.
“The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office takes hate crimes such as these very seriously,” said Col. Kurt A. Hoffman, chief deputy, in the release. “Our detectives worked tirelessly with help from the community to bring this case to a successful conclusion.”
Martinez’s booking record, available through the Corrections Department’s webpages, says he is a New Jersey native. He just turned 21 on June 27, the record adds, noting that he is 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 220 pounds.
Martinez refused to respond when asked about his occupation, the record notes.
His arraignment has been scheduled for Sept. 11, the booking record shows.
A Sarasota News Leader search of court records found only one other incident involving Martinez. In March 2019, he was charged with the civil infraction of failing to move over/slow down for an emergency vehicle/wrecker/sanitation/utility vehicle, records say. Further, he was charged with not having his driver’s license or proof of insurance with him, as well as improper use of flashing lights.
In a Jan. 22 letter to the judge presiding over the case, Martinez asked for restoration of the points on his license that resulted from the charges. “The car I was Driving [sic] was my mother’s and I was driving to pick up some supplies from Home Depot on Cattlemen road [sic],” he wrote. “I had Accidentally [sic] turned on my Emergency lights and did not know how to turn them off,” he added.
Martinez then explained that he had left his wallet — with his driver’s license — at home because his mother had lent him her credit card to use at the store. “And returning to my house I did not move over one lane for a stopped Emergency vehicle,” he continued. “I acted foolishly and Irresponsibly [sic] and I sincerely Apologize [sic].”
The court records also show Martinez opted to attend Traffic School. However, they further note that he failed to do so.
Nonetheless, on Jan. 23, County Judge Matthew Peters agreed to grant Martinez’s request about the points if Martinez did go ahead and complete traffic school and provided a copy of the resulting certificate to the clerk of court.