As seen by the reaction of our readers to the story of artist wannabe Casey Nocket, who admitted to vandalizing Rocky Mountain National Park and other federal lands with dubious painted illustrations and then Instagramming the results, most Coloradans take purposeful damage to our natural wonders very personally.
Understanding that, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office spokesman Mark Techmeyer appreciates the fact that a video of vandalism on Lookout Mountain led to the citing of twenty-year-old Thornton resident Stan Stettler, who's admitted to having done the deed.
But Techmeyer remains uncomfortable with the clip, in which the videographer (who's asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution) can be seen confronting Stettler and a young person who was with him. When asked what he'd advise others who witness vandalism, Techmeyer replies, "To not do what he did."
Techmeyer adds, "We appreciated the evidentiary value of the video. It allowed us to identify the suspect and issue a summons. But the flip side is, it was dangerous. You never know what someone's going to do — and that could have gone bad."
At 6:30 p.m. on August 20 in the Lookout Mountain area, according to graphics included with the clip, the videographer and his fiancée heard paint cans from a distance and soon came upon Stettler essentially caught in the act of scrawling on rocks. "You're defacing property," the videographer says as he paces toward Stettler, his camera recording every step. He also promises to alert the proper authorities and makes a conscious effort to get a good shot of Stettler's face; the one at the top of this post is marked as the best image for identification purposes.
Next, the videographer trails the young person with Stettler into a nearby parking lot and asks, "Which car is yours?" The second person, who keeps his face hidden in the video, stops by a BMW with a temporary plate before moving on; graphics note that the pair didn't split until the videographer was gone. Turns out, though, the Beemer belonged to Stettler, and because the plate is seen clearly in the clip, tracking him down was a simple matter.
That he'd scrawled the name "STAN" on a rock helped, too. Stettler later told CBS4, “I thought it was right to put your name on the rocks for remembrance" — but, shockingly enough, it's not. He's received a summons for defacing property, a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail or a $1,000 fine. The person with him didn't get a citation of his own, since there was no evidence he'd participated in the vandalism.
While watching the video, Techmeyer says, "I started to get a little nervous" imagining what might happen if Stettler had gone after the videographer instead of slinking away from him. "I'm glad it ended up the way it did."
Still, he notes that "what we advise people is, if you can grab some video of a crime, do it as long as you're not putting yourself in a potentially harmful situation. To follow them and have an interaction with them definitely isn't something we'd recommend."
It's Techmeyer's hope that Stettler's vandalism, which took place on Denver Mountain Parks land that the JCSO oversees under contract, is cleaned up — but the success of such an effort "will depend on how porous the rocks are," he says.
Graffiti of this type is not exactly rare in Techmeyer's jurisdiction: "We've had it happen at Lookout Mountain, at Red Rocks, in Jefferson County suburbs both south and north. It's not something like you'd see in the inner city; it's not that persistent. But Jefferson County is pretty diverse geographically: We have dense suburbs and then we flow right into the mountains — and if someone wants to spray graffiti in a natural area, we're a target-rich environment."
In the latest case, "We would probably never have found these suspects were it not for the video," he confirms. "It might not even have been reported. But I'm just glad no one got hurt."
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Here's the video.