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Police investigate graffiti threat to California governor

By Michael Martinez and Stella Chan, CNN
  • NEW: Police say Arizona shooting made authorities take such a threat more seriously
  • The graffiti was discovered in Santa Ana, California
  • Two messages were found that threatened Gov. Jerry Brown

(CNN) -- California authorities were investigating graffiti Friday that threatened the life of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police Department.

The investigation began after someone called police in Santa Ana on Friday morning to report graffiti that said "We gonna kill Gov. Brown 2/14/11" on a wall, Bertagna told CNN.

A patrol officer noticed a second message that said "26 more days 4 Brown," Bertagna said. A swastika was also spray-painted next to that graffiti.

The Santa Ana police and the California Highway Patrol are taking the gubernatorial threats more seriously after the Tucson, Arizona, assassination attempt this month that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, and killed six people and wounded 13, Bertagna said.

"It kind of sets the tone for what we're going to have to be: We have to be conscious of what's put on the wall and what's said," he said. "That's one of the reasons we're taking a closer look at it, because of Tucson."

Both writings were made in residential neighborhoods, and police are comparing the handwriting of the two, Bertagna said.

Fran Clader, spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol, said her agency "takes seriously any threat against a public official." The patrol provides security for the governor.

"We're certainly aware of what happened in Tucson, and we have a threat assessment unit that monitors threats that occur throughout the state, the nation and the world. Again, any threat, we take seriously," Clader told CNN.

Authorities haven't determined any additional significance of the "2/14/11" date other than it's Valentine's Day, Bertagna said. "I'm sure it's something the detectives are looking into," he said.

They are also looking into the meaning of the swastika, he said. Brown, a Catholic who once attended a Jesuit seminary, returned to the governorship this month. He had also been elected California governor in 1974 and 1978.

"It's new for us to get a threat on the life of a sitting governor. As well, the swastika is a new thing for us," Bertagna said.

"Mainly, we're a Hispanic town. The majority of the community is Hispanic, and we don't get a lot of swastika symbols, unless it's at one of our temples," he said. "We don't handle a lot of white supremacy issues here in Santa Ana."

"The biggest thing is that it has a specific date," Bertagna said of the graffiti. Authorities are expected to look at the governor's activities that day.

"We'll be looking into what's his schedule is in February. Will he be in the country? We don't keep his schedule. I'm sure that is something that the CHiPies (California Highway Patrol officers) will be looking into, I'm sure," Bertagna said.

City crews painted over the graffiti Friday, he said.