Park City police declare Black Lives Matter mural vandalism a cold case, a ‘discouraging’ outcome
The Park City Police Department will no longer put resources toward the investigation of an act of vandalism last summer that targeted a large Black Lives Matter mural on Main Street and another mural with a social justice theme, acknowledging the agency was unable to generate further leads to follow in the case.
The Police Department recently shifted the status of the investigation to inactive, meaning the agency considers the vandalism a cold case. The police will not spend time on an inactive case unless new leads are generated. In the case of the vandalism, there were limited leads from the outset, and it seems unlikely two months later significant new ones could be generated.
“We are not actively pursuing anything further. We have no additional leads to follow up on,” said Darwin Little, a police lieutenant who was heavily involved in the investigation, adding that the police have “come up dry” in the probe.
The vandalism occurred just days after artists created the murals on Main Street over the Fourth of July weekend. The giant Black Lives Matter mural, measuring 300 feet in length and with 14-foot-tall letters, especially drew attention as it was created. The murals were designed to advance City Hall’s social equity efforts.
The vandal or vandals in the overnight hours several days later covered the word “Black” with gray paint and covered a clenched fist symbol that stood for the letter “I” in the word “Lives.” One of the other murals, reading “Peace, Unity, Love” was also targeted. The artist who created the Black Lives Matter mural returned to Main Street a short time later to repair the vandalized artwork and slightly alter the piece. The murals, which are temporary, have largely faded in the two-plus months since they were made.
The Police Department in late August cleared a person of interest in the case. The police focused the investigation on the Davis County man shortly after the vandalism. The police said an officer stopped a vehicle late at night several days later and found the driver matched the description of a person seen on surveillance footage from the night of the vandalism obtained from a Main Street business. The police said at the time perpetrators sometimes return to the scene to observe the location after a crime is committed.
The man was never arrested or charged after a police interview. The man told the police he was not in Park City the night of the vandalism and that he had demonstrated in support of the Black Lives Matter movement or in protest of the police killing of George Floyd. The police, though, learned the man once worked for a paint contractor and said enough paint was used in the vandalism to cover 2,000 square feet of the Main Street asphalt.
The Police Department obtained a search warrant and further permission from the man to gather GPS data from the person’s mobile phone. The information showed the phone was not in Park City the night of the vandalism, leading the police to clear the person.
Little acknowledged the Davis County man was the only viable lead in the investigation. The lieutenant said the Police Department spent at least 20 man-hours on the investigation, including the initial response, canvassing Main Street, reviewing surveillance footage, executing the search warrant, interviewing the person of interest and interviewing former employers of the person.
He said graffiti cases are difficult since the perpetrators work so quickly. Little said an act of graffiti is a “very frustrating crime” and “very tough to solve.”
“Discouraging we could not report back to the community with a positive outcome, with closure to it,” Little said.
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