WICHITA MOUNTAIN WILDLIFE REFUGE, OK (TNN) - A person caught graffitiing at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is facing two federal charges. Officials say a suspect, identified through court documents as Bao Pham, confessed to spray painting several rocks with his friends. Court documents show he was arrested by refuge officials on March 10th.
He was arrested after hikers noticed vandalism to rocks on a trip climbing up Elk Mountain. Senior Federal Wildlife Officer Matt Fischer said the hikers took pictures of the fresh spray paint and notified refuge officials after seeing some people on top of the mountain drinking.
“I looked at the pictures that they had taken and after that, we went up as a group and located these individuals,” Fischer said.
Fischer said they interviewed the suspects and one admitted to painting the rocks. Pham was sent to the Comanche County Detention Center. The two with him were issued citations for possession of alcohol.
Though this is Fischer’s first time to catch a suspect for graffitiing, the refuge is no stranger to the crime.
“We have a lot of it,” he said. “In the boulder field we have some and, in the caves, like the Spanish cave, or in the parallel forest and on top of Mount Scott. When it’s at the pristine overlooks, we pursue it a little more intently.”
He said they see more of the problem as the weather warms up. Besides defacing government property, it also ruins the environment.
"It's not good for the rocks when they spray paint, and the overall view of the sense of coming out to the wilderness and now you have graffiti," Fischer said.
Fischer hopes catching him will make others think twice about graffitiing the refuge and has a message for hikers.
“If you do see this type of behavior or these incidents, photograph it and then get a hold of refuge staff or call the non-emergency number,” he said. “Help us out. This case wouldn’t have been made without hikers that care. So, if you’re out here on the refuge enjoying it, help us out a little bit.”
Pham is facing a charge for destroy/deface government property which could lead to one year in prison along with a $100,000 fine. He’s also facing a charge for possession of alcohol. Court documents show he pled not guilty despite his initial confession to refuge officials.