Police in Miami arrested a 26-year-old man accused of filming himself destroying the tombstone of two former middle school classmates killed by a drunk driver on New Year’s Day 2021 and taunting the victims’ families on Instagram.
Brian Rodriguez, 26, faces charges of disturbing the contents of a grave, burglary, and criminal mischief, causing $2,745 in damages, to the graves of best friends Andres Zacarias and Jenser Salazar, both 21, at the Caballero Rivero Woodlawn Cemetery in Miami.
He was free on $5,000 bond, online court records show. He is set to appear in court for an arraignment on Sept. 15. It was unclear Friday whether he had an attorney.
Zacarias and Salazar were among four people killed when a drunk and stoned then-16-year-old boy driving over 100 mph smashed into the vehicle they were in. The crash pinned one of the victim’s bodies under the vehicle’s passenger side, left the face of another unrecognizable and forever changed the lives of the victims’ family members, Miami’s Fox affiliate WSVN reported.
“Nothing will be the same,” Salazar’s sister said when the driver in the DUI was sentenced last month to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay $100 every Jan. 1 to the victims’ compensation fund, the station reported.
She also talked about the gravesite desecration, which the defendant’s defense attorney said his client had nothing to do with and condemned it.
“We have a grave, we clean it, we leave it beautiful,” the sister, the outlet reported. “He is buried there with Jenser, up until not so long ago, when they started vandalizing that grave.”
The grieving families reacted this week to the arrest of Rodriguez, which police said marked a crucial step toward justice for the families and sent a resounding message that acts of desecration will not be tolerated.
“There is no words to describe it,” Zararias’ sister told NBC Miami. “How can somebody do something like that to a gravestone? Like, why?”
The arrest affidavit obtained by Law&Crime outlined the pre-dawn vandalisms — one in March and the other in June.
The first incident occurred on March 21 when the suspect allegedly kicked picture stands and flower arrangements around the burial site before spray painting the headstone black, the document said. The suspect then posted the video on a fake Instagram account and tagged the victim so she could see “the willful destruction of her brother’s headstone.”
When the fake account was closed shortly after that, the cemetery manager put up a camera at the site facing the enclosure.
Then on June 15, the victim got a second video through an unknown sender on Instagram using another fake account, prompting her to return to the cemetery. When she arrived, her brother’s headstone and the property around the enclosure had been painted white.
Photos from the incident show that at 4:16 a.m. that day, an unknown male can be seen holding a phone and a bottle of spray paint over the headstone, “committing the crime,” the affidavit said.
A second camera nearby showed a white four-door Honda Civic parked outside the fence line at the cemetery’s southeast corner. The vandal is seen getting out of the car and jumping the fence into the graveyard.
Police said they ultimately identified Rodriguez as the suspect when investigators showed the victim an image from the video.
“The victim advised that it is Brian Rodriguez, who is personally known by a friend, at which time the defendant’s phone number was provided,” police said in the affidavit.
Zacarias’ sister told WSVN the suspect went to middle school with her brother and Salazar.
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