by Neal Putnam
The vandal who caused $4,634 in damages to the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) was ordered to pay the church back and sentenced to 270 days in jail on Oct. 12.
Because Richard Meza, 29, has already served most of that amount in jail already, he was scheduled for release on Nov. 5, according to the Sheriff’s department website.
Video surveillance cameras showed Meza throwing rocks and a cinder block into a side entrance door and windows at the church at 2633 Denver Street in San Diego on Jan. 10 around 4 am.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Rachel Cano ordered Meza to stay away from MCC and placed him on terms of two years probation with a number of conditions, such as participating in a treatment or cognitive behavior program.
“We wish him well. We’re praying for him,” said Senior Pastor Dan Koeshall to LGBTQ San Diego County News. “I am satisfied with the sentence of Richard Meza. I pray for his well-being and for his physical and mental health.
“I pray he gets the resources and the help he needs to get a solid foundation to build his life upon,” Koeshall continued. “I will never forget the anger on his face caught on camera as he was doing the vandalism. May he find healing, peace, and happiness.”
Meza was asked by a detective about the vandalism when shown a security picture of him outside the church. Meza said he only remembered “a second or two” of it, as he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to his probation report. Meza added he was also diagnosed with being “bipolar.”
Meza said he was homeless at the time and had nowhere to sleep. He said he believed he suffered “a psychotic episode” at the time he damaged the church, according to the probation report.
“He would like to apologize to the court for his behavior and believes he would benefit from a mental health program,” wrote a probation officer after a video teleconference with Meza while in jail.
The probation officer reported that Meza said he started having “black out” periods of time and lack of recall when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2020, and does not remember the MCC vandalism.
Meza told police officers he often sleeps aboard a trolley. The probation report said he has previously frequented the San Diego State University area and was involved in vandalism there.
He is on standard probation conditions, such as a ban on possessing weapons and no marijuana use, even with a medical card. If he has a substantial violation of probation, he could face a two-year prison term, court records say.
Meza had been free on his own recognizance, even though he was homeless, but he failed to show up before Judge Cano during the summer for a hearing. Cano issued a warrant for his arrest and he was picked up a day later by police, which is why he had so many credits. He pleaded guilty to felony vandalism and a second vandalism count was dismissed.
Meza has had minor brushes with the law for several years, but the most serious offense occurred when he was 18 years old. He pleaded guilty to felony assault for stabbing someone, court records show.
Others were also involved in that same fight in downtown San Diego, but Meza was sentenced to two years in prison in 2012. Records show he used the time to take college courses and obtained his GED degree while in prison. After Meza was paroled, he worked for a moving company and also was a general laborer, according to the probation report. He had no parole violations and never returned to prison.
He will leave the South Bay Detention Facility on Nov. 5.–Neal Putnam is a local crime reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].
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