NYPD: Sanitation worker vandalizes church, leads police on slow-speed chase in street sweeper

BOROUGH PARK, Brooklyn (WABC) -- He drove a New York City street sweeper, but one sanitation worker failed to make a clean getaway in Brooklyn Thursday. And now, he's facing serious charges not just for a slow-speed chase away from the police, but also for what he allegedly did right before that.

His job was to sweep up trash around the city, not throw it in places it doesn't belong.

New surveillance video shows a city sanitation worker having a complete meltdown, throwing trash first at a cross and then doubling back around to target a statue of the pope outside St. Francis de Chantal.

In the shocking and disturbing surveillance video, you can clearly see 38-year-old Roman Protas wearing his NYC Sanitation uniform as he approached Borough Park Catholic Church just before 9 a.m. Thursday.

He then seems to look around for trash on the ground before he begins hurling items at a crucifix positioned near the corner.

"Everybody was actually shocked," a resident said.

Protas then doubles back about a half hour later in a city street sweeping truck, and violently opens the gate around a statute of Pope John Paul II, ripping and tearing flowers and other mementos left by parishioners before taking off again.

"I will never understand why anybody would do such a thing," a resident said.

Protas then led police on a short slow-speed chase while driving the street sweeper before he was eventually apprehended.

While in custody, Protas allegedly told investigators he "hated Roman Catholics" and could now face hate crime charges.

"I mean we all respect, different people, different religion, just completely don't understand," said Mark Blasik, a parishioner.

"In America, we have lots of religion, we have to respect together, that's all," said Maciej Wieszcnski, a parishioner.

Despite whatever his sins may be, parishioners Eyewitness News spoke with say the entire congregation prayed for Protas and his wellbeing Friday night.

"Actually there was a prayer for this person just asking for forgiveness and we don't know who this person was, maybe he was a sick person, maybe we just don't know the reason why anybody would do such a thing," a parishioner said.

Protas is also being charged with reckless endangerment and fleeing an officer in a motor vehicle.

He's since been suspended from the Department of Sanitation which he's worked for since 2004.

Police say Protas had bipolar medicines belonging to someone else on him at the time of his arrest, as well as a gun in his truck. He reportedly has eight prior arrests.
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