Wednesday, December 5, 2012

VT Railyard Spray Paint Bandits Busted


By ERIC FRANCIS - November 29,2012

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Two Hartford men suspected of spray painting elaborate graffiti murals, some of which included large cartoon-like characters, on as many as a hundred railroad cars and more than a dozen bridge abutments this year alone are now facing vandalism charges.

Brian Dow, 23, and Daniel Barmore, 25, pleaded innocent Tuesday to a felony count each of committing unlawful mischief with damages over a thousand dollars. Dow also entered an innocent plea to an accompanying misdemeanor charge of unlawful trespass.

Railroad workers and police believe the men are part of a larger “crew” of “taggers” who began sneaking into the rail yard just south of downtown White River Junction this spring and leaving behind increasingly complex artwork on freight railcars and even some locomotives.

Scott Whitney, of the Vermont Rail System, wrote in a sworn statement filed with the court that rail workers had spotted the vandals on several occasions and tried to confront them only to have them scatter when they approached. Residents along Connecticut River Road, which parallels the train tracks, also began noticing a group of young men and occasionally what appeared to be their girlfriends parking their cars and hiking into the woods with backpacks, often until well after dark. The residents began taking pictures of the vehicles and passing them along to police.

On the afternoon of Oct. 2, Hartford Police Officer Jason Pedro, dressed in plainclothes and backed up by Officer Jon Kustafik, began a stakeout of the rail yard. He said he soon observed Barmore and Dow hanging out under the Interstate 89 bridge, which spans both the rails and the Connecticut River to New Hampshire. Pedro said he located a black backpack at the base of the bridge and could immediately tell when he picked it up that it was full of aerosol paint because of the distinctive rattle of all the “mixer balls” inside the spray cans.

The officers walked up to the pair in the rail yard and took them into custody without incident.

Back at the police station, Pedro said he searched Dow’s cell phone, which along with Dow’s boots was covered in yellow paint droplets, and he found photographs of the stylized murals the railroad had reported — including large Popeye characters and frequent images of a large “green blobby ghost” in many of the examples.

A search of Barmore’s cell phone turned up a text message saying, “I paint like every other day. Got over 100 trains already this year and like 20 walls or so,” according to the affidavit, which said Barmore also referenced painting train cars at locations in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine.

Police counted 16 paint cans inside the backpack along with packages of blue nitrile gloves, and a further search of the trunk of Dow’s car turned up another 87 cans of paint, according to the police report.

Whitney told police that it costs the railroads approximately $9,000 apiece to refinish, repaint and reapply the necessary insignia, markings and warning labels to their railcars.

Barmore and Dow each face maximum potential penalties of up to five years in prison and fines of up to $5,000 if they are convicted of the felony charges now pending against them.

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