Two men were arrested in South Jersey in connection to a video that showed one of them urinating on the memorial of a boy who died at the age of 9 battling an incurable brain tumor.
Bryan Bellace, 23, from Egg Harbor City and Daniel Flippen, 23, from Hammonton were arrested for criminal mischief after the Township of Hamilton Police Department received information on May 19 about a video posted on social media, said a statement on Facebook.
The memorial at Underhill Park, a playground in Mays Landing is of Christian Thomas Clopp who died on Feb. 15, 2012, from an “inoperable brain tumor.”
“Bryan Bellace was charged with lewdness (2C:14-4A), disorderly conduct (2C:33-2A(2)) criminal mischief (2C:17-3A). Local ordinance 225-22A (having an open alcoholic beverage in a park) and released on a summons,” said the police statement.
The video was shot by Daniel Flippen who was charged with “having an open alcoholic beverage in a park.”
Clopp’s father, Mark L. Clopp is a former officer with the Township of Hamilton Police Department.
“So, my day started out horribly, after learning what happened to Christian’s memorial. After controlling my own emotions and assisting my family with same, I finally found a moment to put all of this into perspective,” said Mark L. Clopp in a Facebook post.
The father said his sorrow was overcome by the encouragement and support he received from hundreds of people from the community.
“Friends and strangers went to wash the memorial off. At the end of the day, the good outweighed and overwhelmed the bad. This is what Christian did during his life. He brought people together and he has accomplished that again. Perhaps the playground will be beautified, may be expanded as a result. It doesn’t matter, as long as it is enjoyed by thousands of children in the future,” he wrote.
Paul Burgan from Elwood and Desmond Walker from Mays Landing visited the park after the incident and cleaned the memorial. Walker is a coach at Athletes Arbor, a sports performance training facility at New Jersey. They shared about it in another Facebook post.
“When Coach Desmond first heard about this story and contacted me we were both so disgusted by what we read and heard we felt we needed to go down to this memorial clean it up and disinfect it. We did not make this post for publicity but we made this post to let people know that this is our community and we don’t condone to this type of sickening act.”
In an interview with Katie Katro from 6ABC Action News, Walker said he was at a loss for words and he felt that cleaning the memorial was the right thing to do.
“This is not the way a young boy is supposed to be honored. It wasn’t right,” said Walker. “It was heartbreaking for me, so I can just imagine how it would be for the family. Awful! Awful thing!”
In the latest post, Clopp said he denied interviews with all the media and he wants the incident to be turned into a positive learning experience for everyone.
“The appearance of where we live affects property values and the overall morale of the community. Please teach your children this,” he wrote.
He said he doesn’t know the two culprits and doesn’t understand why they did what they did but he hopes they will wake up and get the help they need.
“I admit, my initial reaction was to find you and beat you senseless in defense of my son’s honor and the distress you caused my family. I am better than that. I hope it doesn’t take the heartache my family has lived through to open your eyes,” he wrote.
“Something is wrong in your life and you need to fix it. You have done serious damage to your reputation; only you can fix it. How you respond to this dictates the direction your life will take.”
The father appreciated those who went and cleaned the memorial and said they are “role models” and they hold the community together.