A New Jersey man who sparked widespread outrage by allegedly urinating on a park memorial for a 9-year-old boy said Monday he's sorry for his behavior and that he was so intoxicated he wouldn't have recalled the incident had his friend not taken a video and posted it on social media.
Bryan Bellace, 23, made no excuses for the incident that has left him a pariah in the Atlantic County, New Jersey, town of Mays Landing, where he was videotaped relieving himself on the shrine for Christian Clopp, a beloved boy who died in February 2012 after inspiring his community by waging a courageous battle with brain cancer.
"It was a big mistake I made. I was intoxicated. I didn't know what I was doing at the time," Bellace told ABC News on Monday when reached by phone. "When I came to my senses the next day, I realized I made a huge mistake. I wish I could take it all back and make things right."
Police in Hamilton Township, which encompasses Mays Landing, launched an investigation on Sunday after a video of Bellace allegedly urinating on Christian's memorial surfaced on social media and prompted residents to flood the police with angry complaints.
"Following the investigation into the disturbing video, the suspects were identified," police said in a statement.
After Christian's father, Mark Clopp, a former Hamilton Township police officer, posted a message about the vandalism on Facebook, numerous residents of the community showed up at Underhill Park and helped clean and disinfect the memorial, which is comprised of a plaque bearing Christian's picture on a large rock in the middle of a raised flower bed and next to a child's playground.
It was a big mistake I made. I was intoxicated. I didn't know what I was doing at the time
"I’ve heard from hundreds of people offering assistance. Friends and strangers went to wash the memorial off," Mark Clopp wrote in a Facebook post on Monday. "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."
Police quickly tracked down and arrested both Bellace and his buddy who shot the video, Daniel Flippen, 23, of Hammonton, New Jersey.
Bellace was charged with lewdness, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief and having an open alcoholic beverage in a park. Flippen was charged with having an alcoholic beverage in a park.
Reached by phone on Monday, Flippen declined to comment to ABC News.
But Bellace said he's reached out to Mark Clopp on Facebook and wants to apologize and "ask for forgiveness from the family."
"If he responds back to me, I wouldn't mind calling him and talking to him and give him my apologies. I never meant for this to happen. It should have never happened," Bellace said.
Asked if he was aware that he was urinating on a child's memorial, Bellace said, "To be honest with you, I don't even know how I got to the park. I don't remember being at the park. I got way too intoxicated for that."
Desmond Walker and Paul Burgan, both of Mays Landing, were among the residents who were angered by Bellace's alleged behavior and showed up Sunday to clean up Christian's memorial.
"As a single parent of two healthy kids, I couldn't imagine what that family is going through. I got really choked up," Walker told ABC station WPVI-TV in Philadelphia.
Burgan added, "It was a disgusting sight."
Mark Clopp said he carefully chose the words on Christian’s plaque, words he found hard to believe someone could desecrate after reading them: “A child who made the world a better place through his courage, faith, smile, laughter and love of others. May your memory and inspiration live on forever.”
He said he didn't know either Bellace or Flippen but had a message for them: "I have no idea what exists in your life to make you so indifferent to how others feel but I hope this serves as a wake-up call and you get the help you need."
He added, "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. Something is wrong in your life and you need to fix it."
Bellace said he got the message loud and clear.
"I just have to put one foot in front of the other and try to move on from this and maybe ask for forgiveness and do what I can in my power to make this right," he said.