Back in March, a tombstone featuring Donald Trump’s name and the epitaph “Made America Hate Again” mysteriously appeared in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. It was promptly removed, but because it could be considered a threat on the candidate’s life, the Secret Service and officers with the NYPD’s counterterrorism unit began investigating. Initially, they had trouble figuring out who did it: A check for fingerprints yielded nothing, and though a nearby security camera caught a group of people unloading something from a truck, the license plate was illegible. But more than a month later, the NYPD has cracked the case: According to the Times, they’ve identified a 33-year-old artist named Brian A. Whiteley as the person behind the stunt.
The cops’ big break came the weekend after the tombstone was left in the park, when Gothamist published an interview with an anoymous artist who claimed to be behind the project. The interview included photos and details of how the artist had the stone made at a tombstone shop in the New York City area, so police decided to check out a random Brooklyn showroom to see if it had been made there.
They were in luck: The owner told him that he had indeed made the headstone to the specifications of the customer, whom he described as a “hipster” in an interview with the Times. The owner gave police the customer’s information, as well as video of him loading the stone into a truck. The officers then confirmed with the truck’s owner than the same man had indeed rented it.
And so, yesterday, the cops paid a visit to Whiteley, who hasn’t been charged with a crime.
In an April interview with Daily Intelligencer arranged by a publicist, the artist (who declined to give his name) said, “I’ve been kind of stressed out about it, and paranoid, that the Secret Service is going to show up and, like, pull me out of my house.”
He explained that the purpose of the stunt was to “get Mr. Trump to understand what type of legacy he’s leaving behind.” He added: “I think it was important to comment on the fact that due to some of his rhetoric, instead of being known as a businessman or a celebrity of sorts, he is starting to be remembered as a person who is fostering hatred.” (The date of death was left blank, he said, to show that there’s still time for him to change.)
The artist said at the time that he normally doesn’t speak about his work “because I like maintaining a mystery to projects,” but he wanted to clear some things up because he was concerned that the project was being misconstrued and might be seen as a threat. But now it appears that speaking to the press was the key not only to unraveling the mystery he’d worked so hard to cultivate, but to allowing authorities to track him down.