Learjet Graffiti Damage At VNY Estimated At $100,000

July 14--Authorities are investigating an incident in which a $2.3-million Learjet was spray-painted with graffiti in a secure area of Van Nuys Airport, a crime that Los Angeles police said was gang-related.

The jet, which was vandalized with black spray-paint spelling out "flame," "R.I.P." and an unidentified initial on the left front fuselage, was parked in an overflow area of the tarmac near Maguire Aviation in the 7100 block of Valjean Avenue, said law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation.

There were also several initials spray-painted on the tail of the aircraft.

The graffiti is believed to be "gang-related and gang-initiated," said LAPD spokesman Rudy Lopez, who did not elaborate on the particulars of the investigation, which is being conducted with Los Angeles Airport Police and the FBI.

The incident took place between 2 and 2:23 a.m. on July 7 and caused an estimated $100,000 in damage to the Learjet Model 60 registered to an aviation company in Malibu, according to the sources, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak.

"This is a big deal to me, to have somebody who could get onto the airfield and who could do that kind of damage, that kind of extensive graffiti to an aircraft, and not be seen," said Los Angeles Airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon. "I'm not happy about it."

Gannon, who said the culprit went to "great lengths" to access the airfield, said meetings have already taken place to discuss strategies to prevent future incidents, including parking aircraft where they will be more visible to airport security officers.

Marshall McClain, president of the union that represents the officers who patrol L.A.'s airports, including Van Nuys, said the incident should be "a wake-up call" for airport managers.

"It is very disconcerting that airport management has yet to fully address issues like attrition and staffing," McClain said. "It's something that we have brought to their attention repeatedly over the last several years."

Gannon noted that there has been some attrition but said airport managers expressed a willingness to hire and will fill all vacancies with qualified officers. The chief said everyone -- including security and police officers, aircraft operators, private owners and residents -- has a role to play in being vigilant and reporting suspicious activity.

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

Copyright 2013 - Los Angeles Times

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