LANCASTER, N.Y. (WIVB) — A 20-year-old Lancaster man has been charged in connection to the vandalism of Russell Salvatore’s Patriots and Heroes Park, according to the Lancaster Police Department.
Michael L. Stasiuk was charged with criminal mischief in the second degree, a class D felony, petit larceny, and criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree, which are both class A misdemeanors.
The park, located in front of Russell’s Steaks, Chops, and More Restaurant on Transit Road, was vandalized in early March, with some monuments being “destroyed.”
“It happened early in the morning. I never thought an old man could cry, but when I walked out there I cried,” Russell Salvatore told News 4. “I don’t want to do anything that’s going to hurt him. That’s not the type of individual that I am. I’ll do anything that I can do to help him.”
Salvatore remembers seeing the damage on March 2, which included broken custom stained glass windows, statues, smashed lights, and graffiti on the replica Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says Stasiuk was being treated at ECMC since the incident occurred, which is why there was a delay in the arrest and arraignment.
“We filed charges a week or so after it occurred, but again, we had to wait until he was released from ECMC before we could formally arrest him and formally arraign him,” Flynn said.
On Thursday, the DA’s Office provided more information on the vandalism, saying Stasiuk allegedly used his fists, rocks and a pipe to break several statues, replicas and lights. He also allegedly drove his vehicle around the grounds, damaging landscaping.
The vandalism caused roughly $121,900 in damages. Additionally, police allegedly found memorial fixtures and replicas from the park in Stasiuk’s vehicle.
Salvatore says he is grateful for the support from the Western New York community, including those who cleaned up the park. He plans to reimagine the space and make necessary renovations and improvements. He says he is counting down the days until the park reopens in June.
“I have it all set for June 14. That’s on Flag Day. We’re going to have a big ribbon cutting in the park,” Salvatore explained.
Stasiuk was arraigned and released under supervision. He is scheduled to return to court on April 13 for further proceedings and faces a maximum of seven years in prison. DA Flynn hopes Stasiuk is back in court before this date in order to request a forensic psychiatric evaluation before further court proceedings continue.
In addition to his charges connected to the vandalism, Stasiuk is facing a separate criminal case in Lancaster Town Court, where he is charged with:
– One count of second-degree assault
– One count of resisting arrest
– One count of second-degree obstruction of governmental administration
– Three counts of disorderly conduct
– One count of second-degree harassment
Officials say the 20-year-old ran in front of an officer’s vehicle and yelled obscenities at the officer after police responded to Pleasant View Drive on March 3 due to multiple 911 calls regarding the welfare of a pedestrian.
When the officer exited the vehicle to try and speak with him, Stasiuk allegedly ran into the middle of the street and traffic was blocked to prevent him from being struck.
The 20-year-old then allegedly attempted to flee, refused orders and fought with the officer during attempts to arrest him. Stasiuk is accused of biting the officer’s hand while resisting arrest before a stun gun was used to bring him into custody.
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Emily Miller is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2022. See more of her work here.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.