Lewiston man sentenced for defacing tribal shelter

By John Miller
Boise, Idaho (AP) June 2012

For as many as 2,500 years, red-pigmented pictographs of animals and geometric shapes at a rock shelter along the Snake River bore silent testimony to the presence of the Nez Perce tribe and its ancestors.

On Feb. 7, 2010, it took just a few minutes for three vandals armed with cans of spray paint to cause roughly $100,000 worth of damage that have required the services of a rock art conservator to remedy.

Two of the vandals, Freddie Michael Bernal, 21, and Tyler James Carlson, 23, were sentenced in March, with Bernal to spend three years behind bars and Carlson headed to prison for four months.

This week, the third member of the vandalism party, 25-year-old Jarad Bovencamp, was sentenced to five months in prison, five months home detention and 200 hours of community service.

All three pleaded guilty to willful injury or depredation of property of the United States, by spray painting words including “Freddie B” and the initials “TC” on the basalt at the riverside cliffs.

“The vandalism of these priceless artifacts caused thousands of dollars of damage,” said U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson, following Bovencamp's court appearance in Coeur d'Alene.  “While attempts will be made to restore the pictographs, they will never be the pristine emblem of tribal history that they were before these senseless acts.”

Following their prison terms, Bovencamp, Bernal and Carlson must serve three years of supervised release and each must pay restitution of more $33,000, to cover the cost of restoration work.

The Red Elk Rock Shelter is a National Register of Historic Places-eligible historic property located on land managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Lower Granite Lake, a reservoir that backs up behind Lower Granite Dam.

Following the vandalism, the Corps sought outside help in 2011 to remove the damage.

The federal dam-management agency has issued a contract, with restoration work due to be completed by December.

“It's not an easy thing to do, to remove the spray paint, without causing additional damage to the petroglyphs underneath,” said spokeswoman Tina Baltrusch, from Walla Walla, Wash. “Extreme care is being taken, and we're ensuring we have professionals who have the technical expertise to restore this kind of damage.”

Before this latest conviction, Bovencamp had been arrested on numerous occasions, for drug violations and a 2002 arson charge for which he was sentenced to jail time and a year's probation, according to court records.

Nez Perce officials have said they're pleased the U.S. government has taken the vandalism seriously.

“The pictographs and the location itself has immeasurable cultural and historical value,” the Lapwai, Idaho-based tribe said in a statement. “The importance of protecting and preserving such sites cannot be overstated, and such vandalism should not be tolerated.”