INDIO (CNS) – An arrest warrant has been issued for a 45-year-old man facing criminal charges for allegedly spray-painting racist and anti-LGBTQ graffiti and inflicting other property damage on a community center in a Palm Springs park.
Charinda Godakanda of Palm Springs was released on $10,000 bail in the wake of his arrest last month outside the vandalized James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center at Desert Highland Park.
On Monday, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office charged Godakanda with grand theft and carrying a concealed dirk or dagger, both felonies, and two misdemeanor vandalism counts, and Riverside County Superior Court Judge Harold Hopp signed an warrant for his arrest.
According to a declaration in support of the arrest warrant filed by Palm Springs Police Department Detective Francisco Salgado, officers were sent to 480 Tramview Road about 5 a.m. July 7 following a reported fire in the area.
Arriving officers did not locate a fire, but instead found Godakanda, who allegedly uttered “spontaneous statements stating he had smashed the window and had written his wife’s name on the building,” the declaration states. He also told officers that a nearby shotgun, which was later determined to have been stolen, belonged to him, according to the declaration.
Officers then discovered words written with black spray paint on the exterior of the community center, including “#alllifemattersfoools,” # Not just black white or yellow or pink u idiots and “I am anti Igbtq uryza ask Melissa delho,” the declaration says.
Officers also found a broken glass door, a shotgun and airsoft gun nearby, and black spray paint on the defendant’s hands, according to Salgado.
Center staff told police that signs and an electric car charging station were also damaged, and the total cost to fix it all totaled $4,176, the declaration states.
The investigation tied back to another vandalism reported at a business at 1800 Via Negocio, where about $350 in damage was done, according to authorities.
According to center manager Jarvis Crawford, tires and rocks were thrown at the community center, which had been shuttered for several months at that point due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Multiple windows were also broken, he said.
“I was totally surprised,” Crawford told City News Service then. “I thought it was a teenager that did it.”
Crawford said the building was constructed in the 1970s in what was at the time a predominately Black community. Wednesday, the center is still known as a “Black community center” around town, although Crawford said the center has since morphed into a multicultural “melting pot.”
Following his arrest, Godakanda emailed local media outlets a statement in which he apologized for the vandalism, and cited ongoing mental health struggles.
“My defacing the center as I did is incomprehensible to me and indefensible,” he wrote. “I am so deeply embarrassed by and so terribly sorry for my actions.”
Godakanda has no documented felony convictions in Riverside County.