Spokane Teens Face Up To Five Years In Prison For “Defacing” Pride Flag Crossing Walk By Driving On It

Natasha Biase

Three teenagers in Spokane, Washington, are facing up to five years in prison for creating skid marks on an LGBT-themed crosswalk mural. Last week, the Spokane Police Department arrested and charged 19-year-old Ruslan V. V Turko and two unnamed minors with first-degree malicious mischief.

According to a press release, the police first received a 911 complaint that “multiple subjects on scooters were causing damage to the newly painted Pride mural” on June 5. 

Shortly after receiving the complaint, the police utilized surveillance footage and interviewed several witnesses who claimed to have seen the boys using rental scooters. The witnesses claimed the boys had been “intentionally scooting their tires over the mural to create skid marks.” Officers then identified and detained the three suspects.

Despite photos of the mural demonstrating minimal vandalization, the release described the scuffing as “widespread damage” with many claiming the act was motivated by homophobia.

“Officers observed widespread damage as black scuff marks consistent with scooter wheels were observed across the entirety of the mural. The area is clearly marked to keep traffic away as it was just [repainted] to repair previous damage.”

Kaylee Gaines McGee, who was at a nearby bar when the alleged vandalism took place, accused the teenagers of intentionally trying to damage the Pride-themed crosswalk.

“We see that you have done this thing, and people don’t just go and do that without intention. You don’t destroy symbols without intention behind it,” she said.

Court records also revealed that the kids yelled profanities at witnesses who told them to stop vandalizing the mural.

According to KREM, after appearing in court Thursday, Turko was released on his own recognizance on the condition that he and the other suspects promise to avoid the crosswalk. Prosecutors also requested a $15,000 bond to “cover the approximate cost of repainting the mural” at Howard Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard.

On June 6, Washington State’s updated hate crime law came into effect, making it a felony to deface Pride symbols. Anyone found guilty of damaging public LGBT landmarks could face up to five years in prison and be fined up to $10,000.

While many took to X, formerly Twitter, to express their shock at the response LGBT allies had to people driving over a mural painted on the road:

Others, like the rental scooter company Lime, issued a statement condemning the boy’s “vile acts.”

As previously reported by The Publica, Lime Director of Government Relations Hayden Harvey expressed that the company condemns “these vile acts in no uncertain terms.”

“At a time when our teams at Lime are beginning pride celebrations around the globe, it is disturbing to see the hate taking place in Spokane,” he continued.

As a result of the alleged damage, Lime announced that the intersection would become a “no-go zone” and that all electric scooters would “gradually come to a stop” when approaching so no further harm would come to the mural.

This is not the first time the Pride-themed crosswalk has required touch-ups. Last month, a fundraiser was held after a group of people dumped liquid on it before setting it on fire.

In addition to causing significant damage that prompted Spokane Pride to launch a fundraiser to have it repainted, city leaders came together to denounce the act of vandalism. 

“I am deeply troubled by the repeated defacement of Spokane’s Pride flag mural on Spokane Falls Boulevard and Howard Street. This is not only an act of vandalism, but a hate-fueled act that goes against our values of equality, acceptance, and celebration of diversity,” explained Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown in a statement.

“I unequivocally denounce such behavior and look forward to those responsible being brought to justice. To the LGBTQ+ community, please know that I stand in solidarity with you against all forms of discrimination and prejudice.”

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