A painting conservator from Colorado removed much of a vandal’s graffiti from a Banksy piece just off Main Street. The Park City Police Department
A painting conservator from Colorado removed much of a vandal's graffiti from a Banksy piece just off Main Street. The Park City Police Department has identified a suspect in the vandalism. (Christopher Reeves/Park Record)

Park City Police Department investigators have identified a man suspected of vandalizing two Banksy pieces along Main Street just before New Year's.

Rick Ryan, a police captain, early in the week declined to release the man's name. He said the suspect is from the Los Angeles area. The Police Department is preparing an affidavit that is needed to obtain an arrest warrant for the man. Ryan said the police hope the arrest warrant is issued by the end of the week.

The suspect is in police custody in California on a count similar to a criminal mischief charge under Utah law, Ryan said. Details about the criminal case against the man in California were not immediately available.

The Police Department will seek the man's extradition to face charges in Park City. Ryan said prosecutors are considering charging the man with two third-degree felonies stemming from the Park City cases. The level of the charges is based on the estimated value of the damage, which Ryan said is at least $5,000. A third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in state prison and a $5,000 fine. A judge often orders restitution be paid as part of a sentence. The charges could be increased to second-degree felonies if the damage turns out to be a higher dollar figure than the estimate, Ryan said.

Ryan said the suspect was identified through "just good hard police work." He said a video posted to YouTube afterward provided critical evidence. The video showed the perpetrator attacking one of the Banksy pieces in Park City. The video, though, did not provide an image of the vandal's face. A written statement accompanying the video called the Banksy pieces "vandalism spray paint."

Ryan said investigators watched other videos posted to YouTube by the same person. In one of the videos, the police saw the suspect appearing to stage a one-man protest in California, he said. The video shows a police agency in California responding to the protest, Ryan said. The Park City police contacted the agency in California to learn the identity of the person in the video, according to Ryan. The police then obtained his driver license information, he said. The Police Department developed the suspect information in the middle of January.

Information about the person would be released if an arrest warrant is issued. Details about the Park City cases would be outlined if prosecutors file formal charging documents. A charging document typically includes facts about a criminal incident as well as the police investigation that led to the charge.

The damage to the two Banksy pieces occurred nearly four years after the famous graffiti artist was in Park City for the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. A documentary about Banksy screened at the festival that year.

The vandal smashed through the glass covering a Banksy image of an angel on a garage outside the Cunningham Building and spray-painted the piece. The person attempted to smash the glass protecting an image of a videographer focused on a flower on the Java Cow building but was unable to break the glass. The glass was badly damaged, though. The Cunningham Building owner hired a painting conservator in an attempt to remove the vandal's graffiti from the angel piece on the garage.

The Banksy pieces, particularly the Java Cow image, have become attractions along Main Street. People are often seen admiring the pieces and having their pictures taken with them. They have been a target of vandalism before, but the damage just before New Year's was especially severe. The Cunningham Building owner and the owner of Java Cow each paid to put their Banksy pieces under protective glass in an effort to preserve the artworks.