A father’s mourning was compounded by vandalism at his son’s roadside memorial.
Sheldon Ortego’s teenage son Hunter died in a moped crash in Aina Haina Wednesday, and the memorial at the neighborhood’s sign has been growing since at the corner of Kalanianaole Highway and East Hind Drive.
A viewer reached out to KHON2 via our “Report It” feature, telling us about the beer bottles and graffiti in and around the makeshift memorial.
Amongst the several bouquets of flowers, there were dozen of bottles of alcohol — some opened — as well as what appeared to be a bong, a prescription pill bottle, and graffiti that police said appeared some time between Friday night and Saturday morning.
Neighbors reached out to us Saturday morning after they noticed vandalism near the site. When KHON2 visited the site, we also noticed the items viewers cited and graffiti, not only on a wall, but also on electrical boxes and the cross walk signal pole.
Matt Howell has been coming to this memorial every day since his friend Hunter passed away. He said it’s been very painful, and he’s left flowers and cigarettes here, but says he’s not responsible for any damage.
When asked if he thought the vandalism was disrepectful to Hunter’s memory, Matt said “I don’t really think so, ’cause that’s what we were all into. It’s how we remember him.”
But that’s not how Hunter’s dad wants his son to be remembered.
“When I saw the tagging, it made me sick to my stomach,” said Sheldon Ortego.
Ortego and his family brought painting supplies to clean up the graffiti and he also apologized to the woman who lives in the home near the roadside memorial.
It was a painful moment for a father, as he picked up the bottles left behind. Some of his son’s friends also helped and gave him a hug to help ease the pain. But Ortego wiped away the tears and picked up a brush to begin painting over the tagged walls.
“Please respect my son,” he said. “I don’t want this story to end in a bad way. He was a good kid and just let him rest in peace and …this is just really hard for me, and this is the last thing I want to have to be doing is having to paint a wall, but if it’s to help remember my son on a positive note, I am willing to do that.”
Some of the neighbors we spoke to said it was heartbreaking to hear that it was Hunter’s father that was the one to do the cleaning and not the people responsible for the vandalism.
Honolulu police said they initiated a criminal property damage case Friday.