Suspect Arrested in Vandalization of Vanessa Guillen Memorial
UPDATE: Killeen police have arrested 29-year-old Lewis Mbote of Killeen. According to police, he was taken into custody in the 100 block of West Avenue G in Killeen at approximately 4:56 PM Wednesday. The arrest was made by Killeen police with assistance from the Bell County Sheriff’s Department Criminal Interdiction Unit.
Jail records indicate Mbote was booked into the Bell County Jail at 5:16 PM Wednesday and charged with criminal mischief. He remained in the jail Thursday morning with bond set at $750.
Police have not said what may have prompted the destruction of candles left in honor of Vanessa Guillen at a memorial mural honoring her life that's located near Fort Hood's East Gate.
A memorial for soldier Vanessa Guillen located in Killeen was recently vandalized, and the destruction was captured on video.
According to a report from our news partners at KWTX, a suspect has been identified in the destruction of Vanessa Guillen's memorial. Authorities were able to identify the man after reviewing surveillance footage. In the video, a man kicks and destroys several candles placed in the shape of a heart in front of the portrait of Guillen outside of Fort Hood's East Gate.
"Many people in our community have spent considerable amount of time putting the Vanessa Guillen mural together only to have someone vandalize it in a senseless manner, police spokeswoman Ofelia Miramontez said in a Facebook post Wednesday.
Officials believe the man on tape to be Lewis Mbote, 29, and have put out a warrant for his arrest for vandalism.
Vanessa Guillen was only 20 years old when she was brutally murdered by fellow soldier, Spc. Aaron David Robinson. October 1, 2020 would have marked 21 years of life for Guillen. Just a few hours after her birthday was celebrated by millions across the world, we see this monster destroying the memorial built in her honor.
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is seeking information from the public about the man in the surveillance footage.
“Our community has already been damaged by the loss of one too many soldiers. We ask that we collectively take care of the mural as we honor our service members who live in that silent combat,” said Analuisa Tapia, LULAC district director.
Investigators are asking anyone with information about Mbote’s whereabouts to call the Killeen Police Department at (254) 501-8800.
Artist Cherine Mendoza, with support from the League of United Latin American Citizens, Sick Made Tattoo, and donations to GoFundMe created the mural as a tribute to Vanessa Guillen's life. Once the mural was complete, it was framed with a protective covering, and has been the site of well wishes, flowers, and candlelight vigils.
Guillen's killer committed suicide as police were closing in on him, and now we have another man trying to disrespect Guillen's honor. It is sickening. I hope that police are able to bring this man to justice, because Vanessa and her memorial do not deserve such a level of blatant disrespect.