Lincoln Memorial

Man Vandalized Lincoln Memorial With Penny, Causing Permanent Damage

"Am I in trouble for doing this?" the 21-year-old from Kyrgyzstan asked, police say

The Lincoln Memorial has been vandalized again, and this time a U.S. Park Police officer caught the vandal in the act, officials say. 

Nurtilek Bakirov, 21, of Kyrgyzstan, is accused of vandalizing the memorial about 1:10 p.m. Monday, a police report says. 

He was using a penny to etch "HYPT MAEK" into the fifth pillar on the north side of the memorial, the report says. The meaning of the etching was not immediately clear. 

"This does represent permanent damage to the historic fabric of the memorial," Park Service conservator Justine Bello said. 

Bakirov, a student, avoided reporters as he left a court appearance Tuesday. 

At the monument, the officer saw and heard Bakirov scratching the penny into the pillar and asked him what he was doing. 

"Sorry," Bakirov reportedly said, and then tried to walk away. 

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The officer ordered him to stop, and after the second time, Bakirov did. 

He apologized and said he "didn’t know that you can’t do that," the report says. 

"Am I in trouble for doing this?" he asked. 

Bakirov was charged with destruction of property, a felony. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer. 

Court documents show that the etched letters cannot fully be removed. 

It would cost approximately $2,000 to do a polishing process that would make the carved letters less visible, but that process would also cause permanent damage to the monument, the court documents say. 

In August, someone wrote "F--- law" in red spray paint on a pillar of the monument. Carved initials also were found.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the day of the arrest.

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