A King County judge on Thursday found probable cause to hold a 49-year-old Renton man on investigation of felony harassment and malicious mischief for allegedly pointing a gun at an artist hired to paint a mural in Renton’s Cascade neighborhood and defacing the mural, spelling out “Trump” and other words with red spray paint, according to King County prosecutors.
The man, who lives with his mother about two miles from the mural location, was arrested at his residence on Wednesday and booked into the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent; he made his first court appearance Thursday, when a judge set bail at $150,000, jail and court records show.
The Seattle Times is not naming the man because he has not yet been criminally charged.
Renton police Cmdr. Dave Leibman said Thursday the mural was conceived and commissioned by the City of Renton earlier this year and is aimed at building community identity for the Cascade and Benson Hill neighborhoods, which were the last areas annexed by the city several years ago.
The theme of the mural is aimed at making everyone feel they’re part of the Renton community, Leibman said.
The suspect arrested Wednesday appeared to believe the mural is related to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, since he is alleged to have yelled, “All lives matter,” on at least two occasions while driving by the location, said Leibman. But Leibman said the mural, covering a large retaining wall in the 11600 block of Southeast Petrovitsky Road, has nothing to do with BLM, though it does depict a diverse group of people.
On Sept. 29, a man in a silver Honda Accord stopped his car in the street, raised a handgun, racked the slide and pointed it at the 30-year-old artist, who ran for cover behind a mechanical lift, according to the probable cause statement outlining the police case against the suspect. The man yelled,”All lives matter,” then drove away. The artist and a city parks employee helping with the mural told officers the same man had driven by and yelled, “All lives matter,” at least twice before the gun incident, the statement says.
On Oct. 9, a Renton police officer was providing traffic control at the mural site when a man in a muscle car stopped alongside the artist and yelled expletives at her before taking off; the officer followed the 67-year-old driver to his house and determined the incident was unrelated to the Sept. 29 alleged brandishing, the statement says.
The mural was defaced with the words “Trump,” “LAM” and “BOO” in red spray paint around 2 a.m. on Oct. 12, but video-surveillance footage of the vandalism was of poor quality so no details could be gleaned from it, according to the probable cause statement.
A Renton police detective sent a photo of the “LAM” tag to a law enforcement data base and the next day, a crime analyst with the King County Sheriff’s Office notified the detective that “LAM” had also been painted on the window of a pet food store on Oct. 12 in Fairwood, in unincorporated Renton, according to the probable cause statement. A man who witnessed the vandalism provided police with a partial license plate number, which ultimately led police to identify the 49-year-old suspect.
The mural’s artist, the parks employee and the witness all independently identified the suspect in police photo montages, the statement says.
During the investigation, Renton police learned the same man was investigated in 2018 for malicious mischief by the Sheriff’s Office: He was seen writing “Trump” and “die u communists” over bumper stickers on a vehicle parked at the Snoqualmie Casino, the statement says. He was driving a silver Honda Accord registered to his 73-year-old mother.
Damage to the Renton mural was estimated to be $2,500, says the probable cause statement.
Though the suspect does not have a concealed pistol license, police determined he had purchased a revolver and two semi-automatic handguns.
Following the man’s arrest in the parking lot of his apartment complex, police obtained search warrants and found a can of red spray paint in the cup holder of the Honda Accord and an unloaded 9 mm handgun in the man’s bedroom, next to a loaded magazine, that matched the description of the firearm provided by the artist and parks employee, the statement says.