Color me bad? Asheville Police make another grafitti arrest

Earlier this month, we reported on the Asheville Police Department’s graffiti crackdown and the arrest of three people for alleged “graffiti-related crimes.”  Now the APD has announced the arrest of another person, 18-year-old John Baxter Harrill Jr.,  as a result of an investigation into graffiti activities downtown. According to an e-mail from APD Officer Steve Riddle, Harrill’s Fairview home was searched and a collection of “items related to vandalism” were seized, spawning reactions from city officials.

In the e-mails below, listed in consecutive order, APD Chief William Hogan and City Manager Gary Jackson weigh in, as does Council member Carl Mumpower, who reiterates his oft-repeated stance that graffiti is “urban terrorism.”

— Brian Postelle, staff writer

From: Steve Riddle
Sent: Monday, March 19, 2007 7:56 PM
To: Critical Incident Reports
Subject: South / Central Dayshift

Captain Splain, CRO’s Riddle and Coker, along with assistance from BCSD, executed a search warrant at 305 Orchard Court in Fairview.  This search warrant was conducted as a result of the continued investigation on another graffiti suspect in the downtown area.  Seized were markers, graffiti templates, tags, pictures, design books, and other items related to vandalism.

Charged:      John Baxter Harrill Jr.

          W/M 10/23/88

          Damage to Real Property x 5.

More charges are pending.

From: William Hogan
Sent: Tuesday, March 20, 2007 9:37 AM
To: Steve Riddle; Critical Incident Reports
Cc: Gary Jackson; Jeff Richardson
Subject: RE: South / Central Dayshift

Great catch and thanks for the initiative and follow-up on the graffiti issue.

Chief Hogan


In a message dated 3/20/2007 10:39:33 AM Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

Mayor Bellamy and Council:

I’m forwarding this good news to you because of the recent focus on downtown social issues and cleanliness.


Date: March 20, 2007 10:54:23 AM EST

Graffiti is a very expensive problem that continues to have major harmful economic impact on our downtown, thoroughfares, and neighborhoods.  Graffiti is a form of urban terrorism that is anything but innocent or artistic.  It is very expensive to remove and clutters the environment as surely as litter.  If it’s on your property it may be art – if it is on mine or my neighbors, it is vandalism…

Your efforts to raise the visibility of this issue and the harmful impact can go a long way toward bringing the community together to resist the impact and costs associated with graffiti.

Take a can of spray paint and spray an X on the side of you home and then try to remove it – the word innocent will not be the first to come to your mind.


Carl Mumpower
Asheville City Council


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19 thoughts on “Color me bad? Asheville Police make another grafitti arrest

  1. zen

    Urban Terrorism? It may be indiscriminate and sometimes unwanted, but terrorism? I wonder why Meester Mumpower didn’t evoke the all-encompassing “Graffiti aids our enemies and puts our troops at risk!”

    Or perhaps graffiti leads to the need for stronger ego-boos, like becoming a Council Member and walking the streets looking for drugs…


  2. The worst part of this is that the police and the courts are pretty much stuck dead in the middle. I’m sure there’s lots of crimes they’d rather investigate and prosecute, but when the taxpayer complains, they’ve got to respond. Even if that means busting an 18-year old for painting.

    Mumpower, however, appears to be in a strange universe that is all his own. I mean, is homelessness ‘urban terrorism’ because loiter? Are jaywalkers urban terrorists because they intentionally flout the law, and by so doing, encourage others to do the same? It just seems a little strong to compare the annoying actions of a kid with some markers to a threat against national security.

    I’m all for making people accountable for their actions, but that also extends to politicians being accountable for their strongly worded rhetoric.

  3. It’s kind of funny how if you paint a picture of Charlie Chaplin, or a mural to alleviate some of the orpessiveness of a grey, concrete city, then it’s graffiti, you can pay a bunch of money to put ignorant messages up in the “proper” arenas of communication (e.g. the “Had Enough?” anti-immigration billboards on Patton last year or the absurd anti-drug posters that read “It’s scary what you will end up selling for your hard drug”, both of which I believe are Mumpower-related campaigns.
    But I’m not really complaining, because Carl Mumpower’s ubiquitous presence in the papers is always more amusing than my comics ever could be. It’s good to have guys like him around to keep us reminded of how disconnected from reality a rich white dude can get.


  4. While I agree in principal with you Ethan, you still forget that graffiti is against the law. Whether you, I, or anyone else likes it or not, the law is still the law.

    Also, if you were rich, you would be disconnected from reality also. It’s one of the perks.

    As far as the “white” part of that statement goes, do you really think that a rich person of color is more in tune with the “experience” of their particular ethnic group? I doubt it. In fact, I’m willing to bet that they are more disconnected from what is “really” happening with their people.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s off to the country club.

  5. zen

    Yes, and in Virginia and other states, Adultery, oral sex, and co-habitation are also illegal – law is law. Like the vandalism of graffiti, it is sporatically enforced, which is usually when it is a good political show to do so. This will flare up and fizzle out and some cleanup will be done, some community service will be performed and little or nothing done to help redirect artistic talents looking for any kind of expression that isn’t embraced by the community.

    Incidentally, the word on the street is that a couple of the originals of several local tag crewes have gone on to lucrative out-of-town graphics art jobs (some as far as california).

  6. To compare damaging a business’ property with outdated “morality” laws is a cop-out argument, you and I both know that.

    Once again, there are times that I would much rather look at a nicely painted mural rather than a big personality-less building, but the fact of the matter remains that it isn’t about my preferences, it’s about who owns the building and what they choose to do with it. Us sitting here online whining about it and playing “fashion police” with the buildings will never change it.

    Also, we all like our stuff, as I’m sure whomever owns the property likes their stuff. How would you feel if someone came and damaged your home, or your car, or anything that brought great value to you? You probably wouldn’t like it.

    Just because the criminals in this case are more sympathetic than the victims doesn’t make it any less of a crime.

  7. Jason,
    I think I’ve figured out the root of our disagreement. It’s that we’re coming at this subject from different outlooks. Where you seem to inhabit a reality cluttered with conceptual worries like “THe Law”, “property value (of property that you don’t even “own”), and “Blog feuds”, I’m coming from a place where I’m not too concerned with any of that. I jsut like graffiti. I like art. While “property” serves the body-keeps it out of the rain and stuff, art serves to elevate the soul. I like things that elevate the soul. In fact,though you and I live in the same town-probably within two miles of one another, we actually live in different worlds. In my world, we don’t worry too much about the cops and property value. In fact, here, Graffiti artists are revered, elevated to nearly royal status, money is valueless, we’ve beheaded all of the priests, and Otis Reding is our spiritual leader. You should come visit, it’s like the Paris COmmune except there aren’t any assholes like Paul Verlaine, we aren’t starving, and I don’t think the the Prussian Army is going to come and slaughter us all.

  8. Wow. That was the most sanctimonious thing I’ve ever heard.

    I don’t care about property value. I just live by the “due unto others” credo. Before you start calling me a fundamentalist or a wacko or whatever, think about it, it’s a pretty nice thing. I respect other people’s space, and all I ask is that they respect my space.

    In a perfect world, art would be valued above all else. But unfortunately, we live in a world where things like property take precedent over art.

    I’m a big fan of art, my wife is an artist, and at the risk of sounding like a hippie, I worship music, and probably a lot of the same old dusty R&B albums that you speak of with such reverence, but I understand how the world works.

    It would be nice to live on a commune, and to not need money, but, real life sucks. Also, last time I checked, you weren’t writing for the Xpress for free, and nor were you giving your paychecks to Doctors Without Borders.

    I used to fancy myself an idealist, much like you did, but unfortunately, I realized that people suck, and will most definitely ruin everything that they can get their hands on.

    All I was championing in my initial post was that these graffiti artists respect other people’s space.

    But seriously, if you want to retort at me with something, don’t get all sanctimonious with me. I’m a normal dude, much like you are.

    Now let’s hug and eat ice cream.

  9. I thought being a hippy was like so 5 years ago?

    Graffiti as a form of art is fine – as long as its on your own property or you have permission to being tagging whatever it is you’re using as a canvas. Anything beyond that is wrong – legally and morally. If you don’t think so, let me know when I can show up and paint your stuff.

  10. jeezus, sarcasm is really lost on you folks, huh? I’d like to point out that graffiti usually isn’t on HOUSES. Have you ever had your house tagged? Well, I actually have had my house tagged, but not very often…and most graffiti artists are not in the habit of painting up ma and pa smither’s house in Montford.

  11. Jeffrey Beaumont

    Well, the “law” is more than conceptual clutter, it is what lets us live together with some sense of decorum. Property crime usually doesn’t bother me alot, but if someone has to clean up graffiti, then you have wasted their time and energy. Simple moral principles say don’t screw up other people’s lives.

  12. doughnut gangster

    terrorism is so hot right now, property what a funny concept. So I was thinking about this experience I had, One particularly cold and early morning, wearing a mere ninja suit, i was applying pigment to a certain wall and had been doing so for a couple hours when all of a sudden this half drunken “hippie” rounds the corner and he began like harshing my mellow and stuff. This confused fellow said he was going to “pop a cap in my behind.” He continued with the taunting for about thirty minutes, all this vulgar and hateful blabber floating out and and getting trapped in the poorly woven matrix of his brown aura. All the while I continued with my decoration stepping back ocassionally to critique and make adjustments and to ignore my new friend.
    Okay I’ll get to my fleeting point, He got in my face very close his nose almost touching mine and spraying someone in the face is such a classic move, that poses an interesting question. Do you even own your own face? I’d say it’s more like paying rent, or maybe someone else or some stupid ideology owns your face.
    So when I get old and the pollutants absorbed throughout life gang up on me and wreak havoc on my bodily property value and my rent skyrockets, maybe then I will be inspired to create a task force that cracks down on that silly little thing we call life.
    Now back to the cold night, luckily his nose didn’t touch mine, and aslo by a stoke of luck I generally avoid physical altercations with other living animals, plants, insects, etc. and I carry a big old satchel of respect around with me wherever I go.
    So I didn’t punch or spray him in the face.
    please tear me apart with further commenting, just don’t take yourself too seriously cause that might hurt my feelings I’m just a little emotional and depressive and think about life too much.

  13. doughnut gangster

    Oh, and the title of the article “Color Me Bad” puts a nostalgic smile on my face, because man that boyband was good.

  14. If Mumpower truly believed in cracking down crime, he would:

    1) Put police in the low-income housing areas
    2) Build more jails
    3) Make arrests
    4) Fund education
    5) Put video cameras in the drug-ridden areas.

    I don’t see that happening. I see 30 police cars patrolling Reynolds Mountain, which is the ritzy white upper class district. Put your money where your mouth is, Mumpower.

  15. wow. so some 18 year old has a criminal record beacue he likes to draw. a terrorist record, maybe…

    thats sad.

    it’s a slipery slope folks.

    the funny thing is, grafitti isnt bad. it actually boosts property values.

    you see, when people think of grafitti, they think of immature, obscene, illiterate stuff from junior high or something.
    they dont think of beautiful murals, or artistic ‘tags’ that cover otherwise ugly, blank utility boxes or monotone walls around town.

    and this actually creates a subcluture, enforces the idea that the asheville area is ‘hip’, and therefore should be inhabited by other wealthy, ‘hip’ folks from around the country.

    but i digress. i would just like to say that i really enjoy grafitti and find it absurd that an aging relic like mumpower thinks he can make himself relevant by labeling a teenage artist an ‘urban terrorist’

    really, dr mumpower? these guys, with their spraypaint and notebooks, the folks writing ‘moms’ and drawing little storm clouds with lightning bolts or making stencils that say ‘dance in your blood’, those people are equivilant to suicide bombers in iraq and people laying out IED’s? wow! i had no idea that the asheville community is on such a slipery slope to turning into Bahgdad.

    I hope enough people see what the true ‘slippery slope’ is here when a government agency allows itself to be pressured into labeling artists as ‘terrorists’ by a few business owners who dont want anyone writing on their walls.

    petty vandalism i can understand. but terrorist?
    i have never had my morning coffee ruined by what some kid wrote on a garbage can the night before. but a true ‘urban’ terrorist’ bowing himself up at the gas station in protest of global oil companies profiting off of state-sponsered terror regimes? now that is terrorism that will ruin your morning commute.

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