Warrant pending in Red Rock Canyon graffiti case

Las Vegas police have identified one of the taggers believed responsible for graffiti that marred a collection of prehistoric artwork at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

A warrant for the arrest of the 17-year-old tagger known as "Pee Wee" was pending, said Detective Scott Black of the Las Vegas police Graffiti Investigations Detail.

Because of his age, police could not release his name. The warrant will charge him as a juvenile under the state's anti-graffiti law, Black said.

The teen, who is not in custody, is a member of the NHC tagging crew, vandals who paint graffiti together around Southern Nevada. NHC has several meanings, including Nasty Habits Crew, police said.

Other members of the group also could be charged, though investigators consider Pee Wee the "primary actor," Black said.

The maroon spray-painted graffiti was discovered by hikers in mid-November. The graffiti included the street names "PWE," "RODO" and "64C."

The defaced rock art panels on Aztec sandstone slabs and walls contain pictographs, or painted symbols, that the Bureau of Land Management estimates are 1,000 years old. One slab has a petroglyph, or stone etching, that might be older.

Black, a graffiti investigator for 10 years, called the vandalism "grossly offensive" because it marred ancient drawings that might never be restored fully.

Las Vegas police are working with BLM investigators on the case.

Pee Wee also might be charged under the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act. That felony carries a penalty of up to $100,000 and five years in prison, BLM spokeswoman Kirsten Cannon said.

BLM officials estimate the cost of restoring the site will be at least $10,000, and the agency already has received pledged donations to cover the cost, Cannon said.

"We're confident we're going to be able to restore the artifacts, but they'll never be the same," she said.

The Friends of Red Rock Canyon and the Conservation Lands Foundation are offering a $2,500 reward for information that leads to the conviction of the suspect or suspects. Information about making donations for a reward or for the restoration effort can be found at friendsofredrockcanyon.org.

Anyone with information can leave anonymous tips with Crime Stoppers at 385-5555 or go to www.crimestoppersofnv.com. Tips directly leading to an arrest or an indictment processed through Crime Stoppers might result in a cash reward.

Contact reporter Brian Haynes at bhaynes@review journal.com or 702-383-0281.