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Marathon Mural Defaced; Man Held

March 07, 2000

CARSON — A man who told police he is a graffiti artist was accused Monday of vandalizing an L.A. Marathon mural hours before the start of the marathon last weekend.

Ricardo Espinoza, 23, was charged with causing between $5,000 and $10,000 in damage and possession of vandalism tools after he was arrested by California Highway Patrol officers, who found him crouching in the bushes near the marathon mural on the Santa Monica Freeway near Overland Avenue, prosecutors said.

"It used to be graffiti etiquette [among graffiti artists] not to paint over existing murals," said Deputy City Atty. Mitchell Fox. "I don't know if it was the subject--the marathon--or what, but he went outside that etiquette."

Two other people escaped arrest by running away when the CHP patrol car approached at about 5:30 a.m. Saturday.

The graffiti marred a 54-foot-long, 7-foot-tall section of the Santa Monica Freeway mural, which was painted in 1984 and depicts runners in the inaugural L.A. Marathon.

"Espinoza claimed [he and the others are graffiti artists]," Fox said, "and he just got caught up with them doing the mural."

CHP officers confiscated 13 cans of spray-paint and two backpacks they found at the scene. Espinoza's hands were stained by the same kind of yellow paint used in the multicolored vandalism, Fox said.

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