BOROUGH PARK — An on-duty Department of Sanitation street-sweeper told police "I hate Roman Catholics" when they arrested him for throwing cookies and oranges at a Borough Park church's crucifix and driving recklessly through the neighborhood Thursday, police said.
Roman Protas, 38, chucked the refuse at a statue of Jesus standing outside St. Frances de Chantal, at 1273 58th St., near 13th Avenue, about 9 a.m. before driving his street-sweeper away and continuing on to his regular duties, an NYPD spokesman said.
Police were notified about the incident and started patrolling the area for Protas, who has been with Sanitation since October 2014 and makes about $76,000 a year, officials said.
They spotted him driving recklessly down East Ninth Street, passing through a red light, and pulled him over, police said.
"I hate Roman Catholics," he told them, an NYPD spokesman said.
Protas was carrying Aripiprazole, a drug for treating schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but couldn't produce a prescription for it, the spokesman said.
Protas was arrested and faced several charges including possession of a controlled substance, reckless endangerment as a hate crime, fleeing police and running a red light, police said.
He's been suspended from duty and is facing internal DSNY charges for Thursday's incident, a spokeswoman said.
He has been arrested nine times before on charges including driving while impaired, stealing a car and petit larceny, police said.
He may also have previous disciplinary infractions with Sanitation, a spokeswoman said.
"As a Christian and a worker of the church, I feel offended. What does he have against us?" asked a secretary at the church who identified herself only as Anna.
"The cross wasn't destroyed, but I hope this is the last time," Anna added.