Police are investigating a report of graffiti at the Pyramid Cafe on Cordova Road after a 54-year-old male suspect allegedly wrote the word “terrorist” in red chalk on the surface of the restaurant sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning.
But Lt. Sean Strahon of the Santa Fe Police Department said police are not yet considering the act a hate crime as they believe the suspect is a mentally ill man who has had several similar run-ins with the law.
“For the past two months we have had a lot of issues with him in his neighborhood,” Strahon said of the suspect, whose name he declined to release since he has not yet been charged. “We have been working to try to get him some help.”
But Ziggy Rzig, the owner of Pyramid, said he plans to press charges against the man, who he only knows by the name “Vikingo.”
Rzig, who is from Tunisia, said when he came to work Sunday morning and saw the grafitti, “It didn’t make me feel good. When I saw it, I was in shock. I have been getting along with everybody, I have no problem with anybody in the community.
“When things like that happen you are singled out. You feel like crap. You feel like people don’t want you here. This is very hateful.”
But, Rzig said, he did not want to ignore the grafitti or act like it did not mean anything.
“At first I thought, ‘It’s shameful, what if people see this? I don’t want this bad publicity, bad vibes.’
“But then I thought, ‘I don’t want this crap to happen to anybody else. And if it does happen to them, I don’t want them to put up with it.”
Rzig, 38, has lived in America for about 19 years, he said. He owns two restaurants in Santa Fe and one in Los Alamos. He has owned and operated Pyramid for about 14 years.
On Saturday afternoon, he said, a man who seemed to be in his mid-50s and who identified himself as “Vikingo” — because of his Viking roots, as the man explained it — offered to fix a door at the restaurant in exchange for two meals. Rzig agreed. The man ate his two meals and then attempted to fix the door.
But the handyman’s repair job did not do the trick, so another restaurant employee did the job correctly, Rzig said. When “Vikingo” returned to check on his work, he was not happy to hear that his efforts had failed.
“He called us terrorists, and we called the cops,” Rzig said. “Vikingo” left, but the police did not arrive Saturday.
Because Rzig does not have video cameras outside the restaurant, he cannot prove it was the same man who worked on the door, but he believes it is.
He said he had never seen the man before. He said he sees people who conduct such acts as mentally or emotionally challenged, and not necessarily racist.
“They can’t see clearly,” he said.
Rzig said his father wiped away the graffiti Sunday morning. An image of it popped up on Facebook later that day, accompained by comments supporting the restaurant and denouncing the graffiti.
“Things like this will make us stronger, not weaker,” Rzig said.
“Something like this is just 0.01 percent. But that 0.01 percent still leaves a bad feeling in your stomach.”
Late last year the Southern Poverty Law Center reported an increase in racial hate crimes, including grafitti, around the nation in wake of Donald Trump’s presidential election victory.
Contact Robert Nott at 505-986-3021 or email@example.com.