EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 8, 2013

Lantigua critic: I vandalized mayor's truck

By Jill Harmacinski

---- — LAWRENCE – A vocal critic of Mayor William Lantigua admitted to police that he vandalized Lantigua’s pickup truck while it was parked outside Bali’s restaurant on Essex Street right before Easter.

Antonio Arevalo, 46, told police he threw garbage on Lantigua’s truck, placed a broom stick in the driver’s door handle, stuffed lottery tickets in the muffler pipe and put rock salt in the gas tank - causing an estimated $2,500 damage. Detectives obtained video surveillance from an area business which showed Arevalo in the area when Lantigua’s 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche was damaged. They confronted him with the footage leading to his confession.

Arevalo, who lives in East Boston but frequently visits the city, admitted to police it was “a childish prank,” according to a police report.

“... Mr. Arevalo said he felt he was being treated like dirt, that he felt the mayor got away with too much and he decided he would decorate his truck with trash,” according to a report by Detective Lt. Mary Bartlett.

Arevalo was issued a summons for malicious damage and will face arraignment in Lawrence District Court in the near future.

Previously, Arevalo unsuccessfully tried to a get restraining orders against Lantigua and his top aide, Patrick Blanchette, the city’s chief economic development director.

In April 2011, Arevalo said he was attacked by a 378-pound nightclub bouncer who accused him of snitching on Lantigua. Bouncer David Figueroa pleaded guilty to the attack on Arevalo and was sentenced to 90 days in jail in October.

On Friday, March 29, Lantigua told police his truck was vandalized while it was parked in an empty lot to the west of Bali’s restaurant at 59 Essex St. The mayor said he’d gone there the night before around 9 p.m. After eating dinner, he left Bali’s around 11 p.m. with friends and left his truck behind, he told police.

“He stated he has left the truck there before with no problems,” Bartlett wrote in her report.

The next day (Good Friday), after City Hall closed at noon, Lantigua walked over to Bali’s to get his truck. First, he saw garbage all over the hood, he said. There were also cardboard boxes on top of the car, a small broomstick was placed down the door handle and garbage bags were in the bed of the truck.

He used his remote to start the truck. Right away, he noticed something was wrong so he shut off the truck, he said.

He got out and found lottery tickets jammed in the muffler pipe. When he checked the gas tank, he found rock salt was thrown inside.

Lantigua took pictures of the damage and “he now realized that was not a prank, but malicious, and said he didn’t realize right away that it was malicious or he would not have touched anything,” Bartlett wrote.

The mayor called his mechanic, who told him not to drive the truck. It was then towed to West Street Auto.

Lantigua and police checked with area businesses, some of which had video surveillance cameras in the area. Detective Capt. Denis Pierce retrieved and processed video, which clearly showed Arevalo in the area. Police called Arevalo and asked him to come into the station on Thursday.

Bartlett and Detective Jamie Brito both spoke with Arevalo about his history with the mayor. After asking numerous questions about his activities that night, police showed Arevalo the surveillance tape. He admitted to the vandalism, according to the report.

“... (He) was reminded that there would be differences in political opinion but things should not rise to this level ... Mr. Arevalo apologized for his actions and left the station,” Bartlett wrote.

In January 2011, Arevalo unsuccessfully sought a restraining order against Lantigua, telling a District Court judge he feared for his safety after an earlier confrontation in a downtown nightclub with the mayor. He then sought a restraining order against Blanchette, which was also denied.

At that time, Lantigua dismissed Arevalo as a “nut” working with his political opponents to discredit him.

Neither Arevalo nor Lantigua could be reached for comment last night.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.