Denis Shelagin, the man accused of spraying the cryptic graffiti “Bird God” on Grand Army Plaza’s arch in Brooklyn, said in court that he was instructed to do so in a 1960 letter from his great-great-grandfather. Shelagin also claimed that he was trying to raise awareness about pigeon killings, the New York Post reported.

In a court appearance on Monday, Shelagin said that he was worried that he would suffer harm if he didn’t fulfill his great-great-grandfather’s command.

Shelagin is facing charges of graffiti making, criminal mischief, and grand larceny. He was released without bail at his arraignment in Brooklyn Criminal Court on Monday. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 20.

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