Shaun Ray Deaton, Washington Monument Vandalism Suspect: 5 Fast Facts

shaun ray deaton

National Mall NPS Workers remove paint from the Washington Monument following the arrest of Shaun Ray Deaton of Indiana.

Shaun Ray Deaton of Bloomington, Indiana, was arrested and charged with vandalism on September 20, accused by U.S. Park Police of splashing red paint and writing an expletive-laden political message in graffiti on the Washington Monument, according to statements from law enforcement.

Deaton, 44, told NBC 4 Washington that he was homeless and suffering from physical and mental health issues. He told the NBC affiliate that he aimed to be arrested so he could get the help he needed.

“If you’re poor and a nobody, your only possible chance is rolling the dice and getting some attention toward yourself, good or bad,” Deaton told the local news station.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Deaton’s Message Was Splashed in Blood Red Paint & Asks ‘Have U Been F*****’ By This?’

Deaton’s expletive-filled message was censored in most photos. Huff Post reported the graffiti said “Have u been f***** by this,” with an arrow pointed upward. The next line says, “Gov says tough s***.”

The United States Park Police (USPP) issued a statement Wednesday, September 21, 2022, saying they had arrested Deaton the night before. He was charged with trespassing, tampering and vandalism, they said. The statement said the investigation is ongoing and that additional charges could be filed. They further asked anyone with additional information to call the USPP Tip Line at 202-379-4877 or email them through this contact form.

The statement said:

On Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m., the United States Park Police (USPP) arrested Shaun Ray Deaton, 44, of Bloomington, Ind., for allegedly vandalizing the outside base of the Washington Monument with paint. Deaton was charged with trespassing, tampering and vandalism (36 CFR2.31). This is an initial criminal charge and, as the investigation continues, there may be additional charges. National Park Service conservators have begun the work to remove the paint. Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the USPP Tip Line at 202-379-4877 or e-mail us.

2. Deaton Was Arrested With His Paintbrush in His Hand, Officials Said

Officials told NBC 4 Washington that Deaton was arrested on the spot after police said they observed him defacing the monument. He still had his paintbrush in his hand, police told NBC 4 Washington.

U.S. Park Police were making their rounds when they said they saw him vandalizing the west side of the monument at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to NBC 4 Washington. Deaton was arrested, charged and released on his own recognizance, the local news outlet reported. His mug shot was not immediately made public.

“To see an attack like this and vandalism like this is certainly disheartening,” National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst told the news station.

3. Park Officials Said the Paint Is Coming Off But the Restoration Process Could Take Weeks

The National Mall division of the National Park Service sent its monument restoration crew “at first light” on September 21 to begin working on the paint removal, the agency wrote on Twitter. The statement said the process will not be easy and that the pigment removal will take several rounds of cleaning.

They wrote:

At first light, our Monument Preservation crew got to work on the Washington Monument, after it was defaced with red paint last night. The top layer of paint is coming off and the pigment that seeped into the stone will be treated with many rounds of cleaning product application.

Deaton claimed in interviews with NBC 4 Washington that he bought paint he thought would be easy to remove.

Crews and conservation teams told NBC 4 Washington that they have scrubbed the monument, used power washers and applied chemicals. Court documents reviewed by the news station estimated the removal cost at $1,000. The restoration process is expected to take days or weeks and will require multiple rounds of treatment, Litterst told the news station.

“We’ve seen a good bit of success, perhaps 80% removal, just in the first treatment,” Litterst told NBC 4 Washington.

4. Deaton Told NBC 4 Washington That He Tried to Receive Government Assistance But Is Homeless

Deaton told NBC 4 Washington that he suffers from “a very painful chronic illness” and that he has been living in his car for several weeks. He told the news station he tried to get government assistance, but was unable to do so.

“I tried everything — federal, local, state government, you name it,” he told the news station.

His last resort was vandalizing the national monument, he told the news station.

“Deaton said he arrived in the district at the very end of his resources, physically and mentally. He said he planned to paint those words on the side of the Washington Monument not as some kind of political statement, but in the hope he’d be arrested and get the help he needs,” NBC 4 Washington reported.

5. ‘If You’re Poor & a Nobody, Your Only Possible Chance Is Rolling the Dice,’ Deaton Said

Deaton told NBC 4 Washington that the scenario played out the way he expected.

“This is the argument I was having with all these people before I even did this,” Deaton said. “I knew all this was going to happen. That’s why I just did that and just let them do it.”

Deaton further said he saw the vandalism as his only option, according to NBC 4 Washington.

“If you’re poor and a nobody, your only possible chance is rolling the dice and getting some attention toward yourself, good or bad,” Deaton said.

His LinkedIn Page says he earned a degree from Indiana University in 2010.

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