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Man Sent to Prison for Defacing Petroglyphs with Paintball Gun

Defaced Petroglyphs in Grapevine Canyon | Photo: Andrew Munoz/National Park Service

A man who barraged a culturally sensitive area of Lake Mead National Recreation Area with a spattering of red and green paint was sentenced to prison today, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. David R. Smith pleaded guilty last May to defacing petroglyphs with oil-based pellets shot from a fully automatic paintball gun in March 2010, resulting in a 15-month sentence and an order to pay nearly $10,000 in restitution.

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Grapevine Canyon in the popular Las Vegas-adjacent unit of the National Park Service is considered a sacred place by Colorado River Indian tribes. Some 700 petroglyphs are found in the area, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

On March 19th, 2010, the 21-year-old Smith and two others (one was 12 years old) were spotted defacing the area by a witness who called 911. Hundreds of paintballs were recovered, approximately 38 which defaced areas with petroglyphs, said the U.S. Attorney's Office. Defacing an archeological resource is a felony violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.

Area tribes and the National Park Service removed the paint, but residue remains on the petroglyph panels.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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