National Mall

Washington Monument Vandalized With Profanity, Splashed With Red Paint

A man believed to be responsible for defacing the monument was arrested Tuesday night

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A man was arrested Tuesday for allegedly dumping a bucket of red paint on the Washington Monument and scrawling profanity.

Shaun Ray Deaton, 44, of Bloomington, Indiana, was arrested and charged with trespassing, tampering and vandalism, U.S. Park Police said.

Officers were making their rounds at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday when they saw Deaton damaging the west side of the monument, police said. He was arrested on the spot with the paintbrush still in his hand, and later released on personal recognizance.

“To see an attack like this and vandalism like this is certainly disheartening,” National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst said. 

Crews clean red paint off the Washington Monument on Sept. 21, 2022, after it was vandalized.

Deaton is from Indiana, where according to his LinkedIn profile, he earned a degree from Indiana University in 2010. He told News4 he suffers from a very painful chronic illness and homelessness, and has been living out of his car for the last few weeks.

"I tried everything - federal, local, state government, you name it," he said.

Deaton said he arrived in the District at the very end of his resources, physically and mentally. He said he planned to paint those words on the side of the Washington Monument not as some kind of political statement, but in the hope he’d be arrested and get the help he needs.

“This is the argument I was having with all these people before I even did this,” Deaton said. “I knew all this was going to happen. That’s why I just did that and just let them do it.”

Deaton said he bought paint he knew would be easy to take off.

"If you're poor and a nobody, your only possible chance is rolling the dice and getting some attention toward yourself, good or bad," Deaton said.

Crews and conservation teams started evaluating the damage Tuesday night and resumed Wednesday morning. They applied chemicals to remove the paint, scrubbed and used power washers for some time. Court documents state the marks have cost $1,000 to remove.

“We’ve seen a good bit of success, perhaps 80% removal, just in the first treatment,” Litterst said. 

The restoration process is expected to require multiple treatments over the course of several days or even a couple of weeks. 

A man is accused of dumping paint and writing profanities on the Washington Monument.

Sadly, U.S. Park Service teams are familiar with removing paint from national monuments and memorials; the Park Service investigates about 2,000 incidents of vandalism per year. 

In 2013, someone threw green paint on the base of the statue inside the Lincoln Memorial and onto President Lincoln’s lap. In 2017, a man painted red letters onto the memorial. 

Additional charges against Deaton are possible, Park Police said. It wasn't immediately clear if he has a lawyer.

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