Prosecutor: No charges to be filed for Pride display vandalism in Westport

WESTPORT — No charges will be brought in the vandalism of a Pride Month display at the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen bridge, a prosecutor in the Norwalk state’s attorney office said Monday. The decision was upsetting to many, including Westport Pride founder Brian McGunagle, who originally reported the vandalism.

“I’m very disappointed by the outcome,” McGunagle said. “I would have liked to have seen justice or at least a public apology by the perpetrator if charges couldn’t be brought.”

In June, the Westport Downtown Association decorated the bridge with lights wrapped in multicolored balloons as part of Westport’s first Pride Month celebration, to honor and recognize the LGBTQ community. One morning, McGunagle was driving past the bridge and noticed many of the balloons had been torn off lights on the bridge’s north side and that some lights had been damaged.

Though police quickly issued a release saying they had identified “the responsible party,” no arrest was made. At the time of the incident, police said they were working with the state’s attorney’s office to investigate the motive and determine the potential criminal charges.

On Monday, Suzanne M. Vieux, the supervisory assistant state’s attorney who was handling the investigation, confirmed that no charges were coming.

“After a thoughtful review of all of the facts and evidence presented, the state would not be able to meet its burden at trial and therefore declined to prosecute,” she said.

McGunagle and others said they were upset by the decision. Randy Herbertson, president of the Westport Downtown Association, said, though he knew little about the reasons behind the decision, it’s troubling.

“This is very disappointing, without knowing the details of why they are not pressing charges,” he said. “Vandalism alone should never be passed over.” The fact that this particular display was paying tribute to the LGBTQ community made the incident all the more unsettling, Herbertson said.

McGunagle said he is still pushing for the alleged perpetrator to apologize for the incident. He said one of elements of the incident that is especially disturbing to him is that Westport is a community perceived by many to be progressive and welcoming.

“To see something like this fade into the background is sad,” he said.