Asheville Police announce latest in series of graffiti arrests, detail surveillance of local taggers

The Asheville Police Department announced today that two people were arrested last weekend for “multiple, separate incidents of graffiti related vandalism.” A statement from Capt. Tim Splain, head of the department’s Criminal Investigations Division, goes on to list 14 alleged “prominent graffiti vandals” charged in 2008.

The statement also reveals the extent of the APD’s focus and investigative work on countering graffiti. Among the details of that effort, according to the statement:

• Thus far in 2008, the department has “logged 307 cases of graffiti vandalism in the city.”

• APD officers have conducted more than 50 surveillance operations related to graffiti.

• Officers have devoted more than 500 hours of investigative time on the crackdown.

The full text of the APD’s press release on the arrests, which also lists the alleged tags used by many of the arrestees, is below.

Jon Elliston, managing editor


For Immediate Release
Dec. 10, 2008
Asheville Police Department
Contact: Capt. Tim Splain
Phone: (828) 259-5881

APD makes multiple graffiti vandalism arrests

(13) mugshots/ No photo available for J.M. Dolan

ASHEVILLE – Asheville police arrested two people over the past weekend for multiple, separate incidents of graffiti related vandalism. 

One person was charged with spray-painting graffiti under the Smoky Park Bridge, and five additional subjects were subsequently charged with second-degree trespass and having open containers of alcohol in that incident.

These arrests are the latest in a series of APD graffiti arrests in 2008. Since Jan. 1, APD has logged 307 cases of graffiti vandalism in the city. This number is believed to represent less than half of all actual graffiti incidents, since many victims don’t report the damage to their property. 

APD officers have conducted more than 50 surveillance operations and logged more than 500 hours of investigative time into arresting individual graffiti vandals/taggers in an effort to combat property damage that costs the city and individual property owners hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

“APD Patrol Officers, Community Resource Officers, and Investigators have done a tremendous job trying to reduce the amount of graffiti vandalism that occurs in the city,” said Tim Splain, captain of the Criminal Investigations Division. “Despite their efforts, the public perception is that graffiti crime is increasing because this type of vandalism is so visible. We, as a community, need to continue to enforce existing laws, look toward restricting the availability of paints and markers used for graffiti vandalism, and work together toward a comprehensive graffiti removal program.”

The individuals listed below represent some of the most prominent graffiti vandals in the Asheville area:

12/07/08: Joshua Eddie Motes, 26, of Asheville.
– Charged with Damage to Public Property, Possessing an Open Container of Alcohol, and Second-Degree Trespass.
– Painted the number 5 inside of a circle.
– 5 other people who accompanied Motes were charged with Possessing Open Containers of Alcohol and Second-Degree Trespass.   

12/06/08: Austin Taylor Haltiwanger, 19, of Asheville.
– Currently a UNC Asheville student.
– Charged with (3) counts of Injury to Real Property, Underage Possession of Alcoholic Beverage, and Consuming Alcohol while Underage.
– Individual tags include ETCHR and FEIZ.

11/20/08: Kitt Carson Murphy, 18, of Asheville.
– Charged with Injury to Real Property.
– Individual tags include LIFE and TAGGER ID.

09/04/08: Daniel Amos Johnson, 24, of Asheville.
– Charged with Injury to Real Property and Defacing a Public Building.
– Individual tag is WISDOM.

Nathan John Sestack, 29, of Asheville.
– Currently wanted on an outstanding warrant for Defacing a Public Building. This charge is related to the same incident involving Johnson.

09/04/08: Jarett Michael Dolan, 25, of Asheville.
– Currently wanted on an outstanding warrant for Injury to Real Property.
– Dolan was also charged in another graffiti incident on 02/24/08.
– When arrested, Dolan had 4 cans of spray-paint and a large permanent marker.
– Individual tags include a picture of faces and FACE. 

08/25/08: Gabriel Wayne Sorrell, 34, of Asheville.*
– Charged with Injury to Real Property and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. 
– Individual tag is EPIC.

Timothy Shyler Kincaid, 21, of Swannanoa.
– Charged with Injury to Real Property.
– Individual tag is UCME.

*75 cans of spray paint and a respirator were seized during the arrests of Sorrell and Kincaid. 

06/18/08: Kirsten Marie Elliot, 25, of Asheville.
– Charged with Defacing a Public Building.

03/19/08: John Baxter Harrill, Jr. 20, of Fairview. *
– Charged on 03/19/08 and 03/13/08 with Injury to Real Property in relation to more than 8 incidents of graffiti in the downtown area.
– Harrill was also charged on 01/14/07 with additional graffiti related crimes and a search warrant was executed on his residence.
– Individual tags include TRIDE, MOMS, POED, and TIKE.

* On 11/18/08, Harrill was stopped by APD officers who seized 72 cans of spray paint and 25 colored, permanent markers from him. 

03/17/08: Edwards Dargan Harper, 27, of Asheville. *
– Charged with Injury to Personal Property.
– 7 cans of spray paint and colored, permanent markers were seized from him. 

Christopher Scott Brunt, 22, of Asheville.
– Charged with Injury to Personal Property. 

* Fresh graffiti was present at the arrest of Harper and Brunt read AELCEP and RAPK. 

01/09/08: Marcus Aaron Milling, 18, of Arden.
– Charged with (12) counts of Defacing a Public Building and Injury to Real Property.
– Individual tag is KAOS. 

Christopher Westin McCary, 18, of Arden.
– Charged with (10) counts of Defacing a Public Building and Injury to Real Property. 
– Individual tag is LUCIFER. 



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About Jon Elliston
Former Mountain Xpress managing editor Jon Elliston is the senior editor at WNC magazine.

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35 thoughts on “Asheville Police announce latest in series of graffiti arrests, detail surveillance of local taggers

  1. shadmarsh

    • Officers have devoted more than 500 hours of investigative time on the crackdown.

    Seriously? I wonder how much that costs, and what is the cost benefit ratio?

  2. LOKEL

    I’m with you on the cost/benefit ratio.

    Read the article (in this edition), about the towing practices …. the police were “aggravated” to get calls when the City tried to make the towers call and tell the cops first (before they towed), and complained that it was an increase in workload.

  3. dave

    Other than the guy doing MOMs, TRIED, POED, I would have to say i dont recognize any of those tags. Guess I dont get out much therse days.

  4. dave

    …and how about going after that one jerk who tagged “STAPLES” really big right off of Merimon?

  5. Sammy

    WOW what a waste of time. These insane amount of hours dedicated to Artwork instead of Drug trafficking or murder or finding missing kids???

    Maybe if asheville could accustom their creative residence and provide a huge wall for graffiti their wouldnt be as much damage. And im not talking “lets hire people to do a mural” I mean a huge wall that no matter what time of day or who is with you, it can be painted on. Why not I let my daughter paint her walls and she leaves the living room alone. Seriously this is a waste of taxpayer money and time. Solution? Get a can of white paint + 2 hours of your time, and fix your own property. Its not that hard…AND no where near as bad as when somebody threw a brick through my car window to get a cigarette.

  6. quit_whinin

    i have to agree with Sammy. “boo hoo someone painted on my fence” why dont you go cry about it? if you dont like it stop complainin, skip your current ‘That Seventies Show’ re-run and clean it up yourself. Police spending that much time trying to eliminate graffiti is the most futile thing ive ever heard, especially in a growing city, and its outrageous to think they were given the funds for that in the first place. Maybe if the city wasnt worried about having a cop on every street corner at all hours of the day, tryin to smother any slight sense of creativity or possible fun from the city they wouldnt have to eat away the long hours of the night wasting time trying to INVESTIGATE catching INDIVIDUAL GRAFFITI ARTISTS?! give me a BREAK! get a LIFE people!

  7. jamie

    wow. total waste of time. I sure hope you feel proud, my ever so valiant police force. why dont you go bust a meth lab or something?

  8. tgh60

    Thank you APD for getting these punks off the streets. It is a crime the way they spray paint our old brick buildings.

  9. Burt Lancaster

    Scrawling wanna-be gangsta signs all over bus stops, walls, fences, and houses is annoying, ugly and destructive. My neighborhood is filled with graffiti. I think it’s great the cops are going after them. I’ll even donate more money to help them. It’s not art, it’s douche-baggery and I hope the cops round up every single one of them.

    And Quit_Whinin I put money on you not owning property or the ability to drag yourself away from whatever smug activity you deem cool and scrub off some little trustafarians pathetic excuse for a social statement.

    Graffiti dorks, get a real hobby. We think your art sucks and I hope you spend a night in jail for it.

  10. sammy

    OOK so in response to Burt….

    I own property a house and cars. And Im not saying the stupid tags are artwork, Im saying the murals they painted over in chicken alley and the murals at the old ice house and under monster bridge and so many other areas in asheville is truly art. It takes talent to use a can of krylon, and patience…something alot of people against graffiti dont have.

    AND if ur neighbor hood is filled with stupid mindless tag’s your probably in a bad area LOL. AND seriouly most tags are like 12 inches worth of paint….NOT something to be whining about…its not a hassle of any sort to paint over something. REAL graffiti artists that the cops DONT catch are the ones doing masterpieces in abandon warehouses, they dont go into people yards and do a mural on the side of your house…they plan it out and take their time and ONLY tag property that isnt going to hurt anybody. LIKE the ice house???? why would cops try to arrest somebody for drawing on an abandoned building…the Police dept. cant pay to tear it down yet they can chase kids…THAT building is dangerous, and homeless people sleep in it and everything else…
    BUT the first time somebody tags it, people remember its there and want to start problems about who painted on it? It really is rediculous and 2… there are no gangs in asheville…if you want to see gang signs bounce up to chicago or to california. Anybody In this retirement community is simply a kid with nothing better to do.

    AND the reason it is a waste of time, is because right after the cops bust some kid and lock them up or give them comm. service (AND paint over their artwork), Some kid is going to come along and tag it again. AND the stupid cycle starts all over. How bout paying for tuition so these kids can get off their butts and go to school instead.

  11. Actual Criminal

    Dear APR–Thanks for spending so much time and money on busting petty vandals while the rest of us get away with transporting cocaine and crack into asheville.

    Great Job!

  12. travelah

    The APD deserves a big thank you for busting those who hold other people’s right to property in utter contempt. For those of you who own your home and think the vandals are doing a good thing, invite the vandals onto your own property and let them get to work on your windows, doors and walls.

    Actual criminal … don’t worry … you are up soon enough.

  13. sammy

    IF there are any truly amazing graffiti artists reading this, I need murals done at my house please!

    I do own my home, and I apprieciate your work,

    Your welcome anytime because I am an artist myself (I dont run the streets doing graffiti bc I am a mom) but I think its beautiful. So hit me up!

    special thanx to the “actual criminal” for putting the truth out there hahaha

  14. Burt Lancaster

    I didn’t know that the APD could only do one thing at a time and had to drop everything else to handle the graffiti artists.

    I guess it’s mass chaos now especially with ‘drug dealers’ posting thank you notes on blogs. I didn’t know about the cocaine dealers/bloggers we have here in Asheville.

    Sammy I don’t see art where I live. I see scribblings that take 2 seconds of your valued patience and then the people who actually live in people. And we’re suppose to be happy about it because it’s “art”? I don’t want their art on my street wall.

    Also, I’m supposed to just accept graffiti because I don’t live in some suburban or north Asheville neighborhood and instead live downtown? Nope, I want it to stop and so do entire neighborhoods of people. So you’re quite outnumbered.

    You sound like a spoiled brat defending other spoiled brats.

    I appreciate art. I don’t appreciate someone covering my neighborhood with spray paint crap and then being told by someone I’m supposed to just clean it off and be happy about it.

    I’m sure the real street artists can find a place to do their art and not get arrested. The little posers out there covering walls, houses, bus stops can and should be arrested and prosecuted as much as possible.

  15. David

    Good Job to the APD. I suppose those that complain have no sense of pride of the beauty of our old buildings. They would rather attack the police and defend the ego mad taggers that have defaced every building from West Asheville to downtown. Sammy, since you are so open minded, if you like give us your address and since we are all “artists” will be happy to come decorate your house. I promise to deliver the kind of quality work that I see everyday walking.

  16. travelah

    No, sammy, you don’t get to pick and choose the “artist”. Your house gets whatever chit some drunk with a can of beer in his hand decides to spray on it.

  17. aperturefocus

    Dave,in the last two years we have took over 2000 pictures of graffiti in and around Asheville
    and most of the trags in the apd report I have never seen.TRIDE, MOMS, POED, and TIKE which we have photos of on the website. We have over 400 picture of graffiti posted. Wasted money and time for the police but is safer to arrest these people
    than going into hillcrest and pulling draus dealer.

  18. Aperturefocus>>>>I have around 1000 photos of all the graffiti, its truly amazing work and im def checking out your website…Im glad your more understanding that the rest of the people on this string of biased comments!

  19. Piffy!

    cool link, apfocus. most of that moms tride etchr stuff is hella amateur, tho. i agree witht he statement that most of the asheville graf scene is a carbon copy of a carbon copy with as much originality or legitimacy as a nickleback album.


    Damn APD. Why don’t you actually spend taxpayer money fighting *actual* crime?

    Oh yeah, because it’s dangerous.

    If you think we have an actual gang problem here you’re very mistaken. There’s just wannabe gangs here – which is a good thing – compared to having actual, real gangs.

    And the APD can’t even deal with that. They are SO incompetent that they think that dealing with graffiti is actually going to accomplish anything! Or they know it’s good PR, and keeps them out of doing actual work…

    travelah – I’m not even going to respond to your drivel.

  21. I have actually studied gangs extensively, and the fake gangs in small numbers can be much more dangerous than real gang members. Believe it or not they do have codes of the street like for instance cant injure a mother or a child, or cant turn on their own brother, ect. The wanna be gangs are a bunch of uneduacated children with real guns who have no sense of loyalty and dont fully understand the capacitiy of danger they can cause. They get careless. A wanna be gang member brought a gun to stevens lee after school care and shot that gun into a crowd of kids. No one was injured but it could have been anyone. (Yes this sounds dumb and I am not taking up for any one who commits VIOLENT crimes) but a kid doesnt understand what :theres no coming back: really means, and they dont care. Majority of the time, if a REAL gang member (theres a few here but they keep to themselves) invites conflict in their life its over something they deem serious. So I am more afraid of the wanna be-s than any real crips or bloods.

    THAT aside I do think the graffiti removal swat team *asheville really has one* is bs. And we really could be trying to help inner-city kids understand the seriousness of gangs or drugs. We need to educate people, and this isnt helping anyone. I also understand that there are more that one force in the area to deal with each of these more serious things, but seriously, its just a waste of time and money. Graffiti will never end bc even if its chicken scratch – its not killing a child or feeding a mother full of crack cocaine, and its not going around causing drama…its paint on a wall…One of the simplest forms of art there is, that dates back further than all these other crimes. It is art, how ever it is portrayed. Cave men drew stick figures, and we all loved that, so what is really so bad about graffiti? It shows that there is life, Many different walks of it. Its expression. Give up.


    Hi Zen

    Thanks for posting your flickr link you have some GREAT shots of the graffiti around Asheville.
    You have alot of the same shots of graffiti around Asheville as me. What camera do you use?
    I have only seen taggers about three times out of all the hundreds of hours I have spent shooting graffiti around Asheville.

  23. aperturefocus

    Hi Zen, Lets do breakfast or lunch some time after
    the 1st of the year. We going to do some 2nd degree trepass to take some graffiti photo. If the tagger take a chance to do the art we will take a chance to photograph it. May be the APD will looking for paint cans and not a camera.

  24. Dina

    I’m curious Sammy. Do you have children in public schools? I do! We do have gangs and as a matter of fact they are in our schools! It obviously is not as bad of a problem as in big cities but our gang violence is increasing. You may want to research that a little further although I don’t believe these taggers are gang members and clearly are not artisits! It’s horrible what they are doing to our beautiful community!

  25. Piffy!

    “It’s horrible what they are doing to our beautiful community! ”

    Yes, very bad. Almost as bad as the Staples sign, greedy developers, the quality of the S French Broad, …

  26. Yes sweetie I do have a kid in school. And she loves graffiti too, she is an artist just as I am, and she goes with me all the time when Im doing photography. And I have her name Tagged on my forearm, and she loves it. And I don’t need to research. I am in the community all the time doing photography and everything else, I know these “supposed gang members and criminals” and I know the children who dont get meals cause their parents are out in the streets doing whatever. And then I know the people who wont give graffiti a chance bc its different. .. and I am telling you there are no REAL gang members here. The media blames everything on gangs simply bc somebody wears a bandanna and that isn’t the case at all. We have criminals here yes but not gang members. I know a white kid that was playing Russian roulette in a car and they said it was gang related LOL. It wasn’t it was just dumb teenagers who didn’t realize what no coming back meant.

    As for zen and aperture focus…I have photos of all the graffiti too, ill upload them to my flikr account when I get time. I use a Nikon D80 which is A-Mazing. :)


  27. aperturefocus

    The Asheville PD stopped us as we left from under the Westgate bridge. We had been taking pictures of all the graffiti there,some new but mostly old. The officer told us that they have had a little problem with graffiti in that area and we shouldn’t had been up there. He was very nice and after he check us out he let us go. That is state owned and as kid I played under that oldest brige (1955-1960) for maney years. Was I breaking the law today and not 30 some years ago? I had paid a lot taxes here in North Carolina. Does the police have the right to arrest me for tresspass if they choose too? My parent and grand parent taxes help pay for that bridge to be built so I think I own a small pat of it…aperturefocus

  28. Khaliah

    I’m a former graffiti artist and I have to say that the art actually gives the city a better feel. What a waste of money bringing this guys “to justice” when you have drugs being sold right around the corner from the Police Department and The Sheriff’s Department.
    The only crimes it seem that the APD likes to “bust” is homelessness.
    Stop the drugs in Asheville and the corruption in the Police/Sheriff’s departments. Spend money on that!

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