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Parolee arrested for hanging noose at OC gay advocacy group's office

June 18, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Authorities have arrested a man suspected of committing a hate crime in Santa Ana last October.

Police say DNA evidence points to 46-year-old parolee Marten Joseph Brandel as the suspect who hung a noose over a door at the headquarters of Equality California, the state's largest advocacy group for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department forensics lab analyzed DNA found on the rope.

"They took the people that had handled the noose and collected DNA evidence from them to exclude them from the process, and then this individual who had nothing to do with the case returned a hit," said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police Department.

Police knew Brandel was checking into his parole office in Irvine on Friday. That's where they took him into custody.

The transient has prior convictions for drugs, assaulting a police officer and property crimes.

"He was taken into custody, brought here to the police department, he was interviewed and gave incriminating statements, basically admitting that he committed the crime, but did not tell the detectives why," Bertagna said.

As Santa Ana police were investigating the hate crime, they were answering to charges they were slow to react in the case.

An Equality California volunteer who called police said officers arrived 90 minutes later and refused to take the incident seriously.

In October, Mel Distel of Equality California said, "The officer that we spoke to, he mentioned that what it is is a string on the door and continued on to tell us that sometimes you just have to live with being a victim."

The group later closed its office on South Grand Avenue and filed a complaint against the SAPD.

On Saturday, Equality California issued a statement: "We thank the Santa Ana Police Department for making an arrest in this case. It sends a powerful message that crimes motivated by bigotry against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community will not go unpunished. Equality California will continue its work to open hearts and minds so that LGBT Californians one day enjoy freedom from the prejudice and hatred that can lead to violence."

Brandel is being held without bail because he is a parolee. He is being charged with terrorizing a place with a symbol, committing a hate crime and violating parole.

The District Attorney's Office will get the case Monday.

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