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Vandals give Hendrix statue the blues; suspects caught after leaving trail of graffiti
It was blue spray paint, not a purple haze, that was left on Jimi Hendrix’s famous inverted Fender guitar Wednesday night by two particularly inept vandals, police said.
Seattle Times staff reporter
That wasn’t purple haze covering Jimi Hendrix’s famous inverted Fender guitar Thursday morning.
It was blue paint sprayed on the bronze statue of the rock legend by what police described as two particularly inept vandals during a vandalism spree the night before.
“Not to diminish the work of the officers at all, but I will say the suspects made it fairly easy,” said Seattle Police Department spokesman Detective Mark Jamieson.
How easy? For one thing, they left a trail of spray-painted targets, stretching from the statue on Capitol Hill to downtown Seattle after they hopped a bus. Police say they even tagged the King County Metro Transit bus.
And once officers captured the suspected culprits, their blue-stained hands were the final giveaway.
According to police, employees of Blick Art Materials on Broadway called 911 about 8 p.m. Wednesday after two intoxicated men purchased cans of spray paint, walked outside the door and immediately began defacing the statue just steps from the store’s entrance.
In full view of surveillance cameras and witnesses, the men sprayed blue paint on Hendrix’s guitar and the pedestal of the statue, police said.
The two men crossed the street to Seattle Central Community College, tagged the school’s sign and then walked around the corner to a bus stop, where they also left their telltale marks, police said.
They boarded the bus and spray-painted portions of the bus while the driver watched, took pictures and reported their activity, police said.
By the time the 20- and 21-year-old men exited the bus at Olive Street and Eighth Avenue — where blue paint remained on the corner of a building on Thursday — both Metro and Seattle police were looking for them, Seattle police said.
Police said the two men continued to tag buildings, spraying indecipherable symbols and squiggly lines as they walked downtown.
When two men matching the suspects’ descriptions were apprehended at Third Avenue and Pike Street, police said, they had blue paint on their hands and clothes and one of them had cans of spray paint in his backpack.
If that wasn’t enough, both were positively identified by witnesses as the culprits, police said.
The two men were booked into King County Jail on investigation of malicious mischief, but had not yet been charged, according to a spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
Though graffiti removal is typically the responsibility of private-property owners, the city maintains the Hendrix statue created by Seattle-area artist Daryl Smith and dedicated in 1997.
Before noon on Thursday, the city had already called contract cleaner CleanScapes to remove the paint and employee Don Nguyen was brushing Elephant Snot graffiti remover over the tagged portions of the kneeling statue and its pedestal.
Troy Jensen, a transient artist who says he spends a lot of his time “staring down” the Hendrix statue in “fierce, but friendly, competition,” said he’s seen the image adorned with cigarettes and flowers, but the blue paint made him sad.
It’s not that he thinks it was disrespectful to Hendrix, who grew up in Seattle and died on Sept. 18, 1970 — the vandals hit on the anniversary of his death — but because it was so poorly carried out.
“It would depend on his state of mind, of course, but I think Jimi would have been OK with kids expressing themselves,” said Jensen. “But the thing is, there was a really cool green tag on his back and because of this, it’ll all be scrubbed away.”
Christine Clarridge can be reached at email@example.com or 206-464-8983.
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.