Police arrested a city sanitation worker Thursday after he allegedly threw garbage at a crucifix, mashed flowers by another religious statue and then led police on a slow-speed chase in a street sweeper.
Someone at St. Frances de Chantal Church in Borough Park recorded Roman Protas, 38, throwing garbage on a crucifix at the church Thursday morning, according to police. Later, the man returned in his street sweeper, gets out and destroys flowers surrounding a statue of Pope John Paul II, surveillance video obtained by NBC 4 New York shows.
After the destruction, he took off in his vehicle. Police were alerted to the vandalism and tried to stop the man's vehicle, but he wouldn't stop.
The surveillance footage from the neighborhood shows the street sweeper weaving through traffic and -- slowly -- blowing through a red light as cops creep behind his vehicle.
Cops finally pulled the man over, and he was arrested. The drug Aripiprazole, which is used to treat disorders like schizophrenia and Tourette’s, was found on him, police said.
Protas faces a slew of charges in the incident, among them criminal possession of a controlled substance, reckless endangerment, fleeing an officer in a motor vehicle, reckless driving, criminal trespassing and running a red light. He also faces a hate crime charge, police said.
The sanitation worker had been arrested eight times before Friday's bizarre chain of events. Eight days ago, he was booked for allegedly stealing money from a charity box.
No one answered the door at Protas' house Friday afternoon.
Congregants at the church said Friday they were outraged by the church vandalism.
"This is horrible," said parishioner Alice Wodnick.
"I think it's very disrespectful," said Kathy Castaldo of Borough Park. "You shouldn't do that anywhere. Any religion."