Paint-Piggification Ends In Arrest – August 3, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

The vandal enters Arcata Fire’s parking lot. Photos courtesy Arcata Fire

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

Vandalism in progress, upper left.

ARCATA – It’s not the first time someone has gone on a daylight graffiti quest. Nor is it the first time a suspect was arrested paint-handed for allegedly doing so.

Arcata Fire personnel were going about their business at the downtown fire station around noon on Tuesday, July 17, when passersby alerted them to some bad news. “People came in and said, ‘Wow, your building got tagged,’” said Fire Chief John McFarland.

Checking around back, firefighters found that two vehicles – an department truck and a firefighter’s vehicle – had been spray painted in blue block letters with the words, “FIRE PIG” and “FIRE PIGGIES.” A wall had been emblazoned with “PIGGIES” and “I.”

The whole area around the fire station is under constant video surveillance, so the staff just rolled back the digital “tape” and observed the act in progress between 8:30 and 9 a.m. that morning.

Joaquin Emerson Turner Smith

The video depicts a “regular-looking 20-something” man striding into the station’s parking lot, using his sleeve to wipe the rain off the side of a truck, then methodically writing on it with paint.

McFarland called Arcata Police, only to find that the graffitist had struck there as well.

Two APD cars parked away from the station, near the Arcata Branch Library, had been marked ith the same foot-tall blue letters, stating “PIGGIES.”

The paint was promptly cleaned off the various vehicles and painted over on the building. Police looked for the man downtown, but didn’t find him.

“It was clearly on our minds for the rest of the day,” said APD Lt. Ryan Peterson.

The porcine theme was soon to raise its snouted head again. That afternoon, the fire station’s back steps were tagged, this time in yellow, with the words, “FIRE PIGS.”

Just down the alley, on the back of the building that houses G Street shops, the words “HEAD PIGS” had been scrawled.

On calling that in to APD, McFarland was told of a “big hassle” going on with the vandalism suspect in the Uniontown Shopping center across the street. “They said, ‘They have your guy,’” McFarland said.

Peterson said the man was spotted by police, but fled. A foot chase ensued, and the man was apprehended in some bushes on the center’s south side.

The suspect was identified as Joaquin Emerson Turner Smith, 21, of Arcata.

He was arrested on charges of felony vandalism, resisting arrest and a warrant for larceny issued in Marin County last July.

Peterson said Smith struggled a bit, but was arrested without use of force. His identity was confirmed by witnesses.

Smith’s motivation is unknown, as he clammed up on his arrest.

“He didn’t talk to us,” Peterson said, speculating as to the reason for the alleged tagging. “He’s got some beef with the fire and police department.”

At the time of his arrest, Peterson said, Smith was in possession of spray paint.

McFarland said he was told Smith had been in town one day. “I don’t know what his issue is,” he said.

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