Las Vegas Sun

August 18, 2019

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Man gets 15 months for shooting paint balls at petroglyphs

A 21-year-old Arizona resident received a 15-month federal prison sentence today after pleading guilty to using a paint-ball gun to shoot at petroglyphs in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in March 2010, Nevada's U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said.

David Smith of Bullhead City also was ordered by U.S. District Judge Philip Pro to pay $9,995 in restitution and perform 50 hours of community service.

Smith was sentenced following a two-hour hearing in which members of six Colorado River Native American tribes addressed the court. He pleaded guilty May 18 to unlawful defacement of an archaeological resource, a felony violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.

Smith admitted that while he was in Grapevine Canyon, he shot paint-ball pellets at Native American rock art panels and petroglyphs. The canyon lies within the Lake Mead National Recreational Area and is just west of Laughlin. The area contains more than 700 petroglyphs and numerous rock shelters, and is listed on the Interior Department's National Register of Historical Places.

Smith admitted that when he entered the canyon, he passed signs stating that it contained cultural resources and that it was illegal to damage and deface them. He also admitted he knew the petroglyphs were important to Native Americans.

Smith used a fully automatic paint-ball gun and oil-based pellets to shoot at the petroglyphs. Roughly 38 areas containing petroglyphs were defaced, and hundreds of paint balls were scattered and recovered from the canyon. A National Park Service ranger responded to the scene, following a report that individuals were in the canyon with spray paint. Smith was with two other individuals, including a 12-year-old boy.

Colorado River tribes view the Grapevine Canyon area as sacred and believe it is the birthplace of many tribes. Archeologists believe the area has been inhabited and used by humans for at least 1,100 years.

This investigation was conducted by the National Park Service,and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kathleen Bliss and Nadia Ahmed.

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