When tagging buildings with graffiti vandals often use the same image or word, much like a signature. When a vandal tagged the front doors of the Pueblo Municipal Justice Center, the home of the Pueblo Police department, it was a bold statement that walked the line between fearlessness and foolishness.
What could have been an easy case hit a snag. Despite the fact the multimillion dollar facility has security cameras covering every inch of the buildings exterior, the vandal was never caught on tape. That is because one camera was out of position, intentionally pointed away from the building in order to watch the parking lot instead.
At the time of the crime, the lot was being used for State Fair parking. The police felt it was better to watch the lot instead of the front doors, especially with an officer stationed less than 50 yards from them.
Without video of the criminal in action, detectives had to gather other evidence in order to get a conviction. In the following weeks, a similar graffiti tag was found in several other places around town. The tag was a single word, “aloha.” Once investigators recognized the similarities the original tagging on the front doors of the police station made sense.
The big difference between the tag on the front doors and all of the other tagging was there was something in front of the word aloha. The police couldn't tell if it was the letters BOB or the number 808. That is until they realized, 808 is the area code for Hawaiian telephone numbers.
After KKTV aired the story of what happened to the front of the Municipal Justice Center, a Crime Stoppers tip came in. It was the name of the individual who uses the aloha tag. Armed with a name, and several other pieces of evidence, investigators were able to begin the process of securing an arrest warrant for the young man they believed was responsible.
About a week ago, a new piece of graffiti showed up in Pueblo. This time it welcomed and bid farewell to drivers headed north and south on Interstate 25. Once again, “aloha” was spray-painted on a building, this time it was the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center.
Wednesday morning, having finally been given the warrant, investigators arrested 21-year-old John Bezduch on eight counts of graffiti application. They also caught him with drugs and found a gun at his home. After taking him back to the Municipal Justice Center, and talking to him about the evidence they had gathered, Bezduch agreed to confess to the graffiti.
In exchange for his guilty pleas to all eight counts, the authorities would not charge him with the drug possession. Bezduch went before Honorable Judge William Alexander later that afternoon.
Judge Alexander accepted his guilty plea and approved the plea agreement. Each charge of graffiti application carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to a year in jail. Bezduch will spend six months in jail for each charge, and all of them be served at the same time. He will have to pay $150 in restitution to two homeowners for the graffiti he applied to their property, and he will have to get counseling for a drug problem he admitted to having.
If Bezduch is not arrested for the same type of offenses for 12 months following his release, the charges will be wiped from his record.
Prior to his hearing, I asked Bezduch if he was going to continue to graffiti. He said, "I plead the fifth."