Former county employee faces 49 charges of unauthorized graffiti
Suspect tells police '1 love' message meant to spread positive message
- The graffiti caused more than $1,000 worth of damage to a U.S. Highway 64 billboard.
- Delbert Gus allegedly spray painted the message throughout the county over the course of a few months this year.
- When police confronted Gus about the graffiti at his workplace, he allegedly cringed and responded affirmatively.
FARMINGTON — Charges have been filed against a former San Juan County employee accused of repeatedly spray painting the number 1 and a heart symbol on property throughout the county.
Delbert Gus, 31, is charged with one felony charge of unauthorized graffiti and 48 petty misdemeanor charges of unauthorized graffiti in Aztec Magistrate Court. A criminal complaint and an arrest warrant were filed on Nov. 30. He did not have an attorney listed on Friday.
The graffiti message has been tagged at dozens of locations throughout the county, causing at least $3,450 in damage, according to court documents. Court documents list his address as a Bloomfield address, but Bloomfield Chief of Police Randy Foster said via email Monday that Gus actually lives outside the city limits.
Gus submitted his resignation from his job with the county in October, according to San Juan County CEO Kim Carpenter, and he was working as a technician for the waste department at San Juan County during the investigations, according to charging documents.
He also worked as a transfer station attendant for San Juan County Public Works Department in 2014, according to a county employee roster published by the Rio Grande Foundation.
Gus lives on County Road 7588, according to court records, which is approximately 27 miles south of Bloomfield and 11 miles north of Nageezi.
San Juan County Sheriff's Office has been investigating the slew of graffiti around the county since the summer of 2017, according to The Daily Times records. Police had identified a suspect in October, though they declined to release a name until charges had been filed.
On Oct. 19, police acted on an anonymous tip and interviewed Gus at the public works building in Aztec, where Gus agreed to talk to an officer and admitted that the graffiti — aside from a few copycat instances — was his, according to court documents. When the officer told Gus that he was there to talk about the graffiti, Gus “cringed and said ‘Yeah.’”
Gus said the graffiti was meant to “spread a positive message” because “he was seeing so much hate and violence in the world,” and the number and symbol are a reference to a Bob Marley song, according to court documents.
Gus allegedly told police he had been spray painting the message for “a few months," most recently in early October.
He told police during the interview that he spray-painted the graffiti after work and after he dropped county vehicles off, according to court documents.
Gus is charged with 48 petty misdemeanors because all locations — except one — that he tagged did not suffer more than $1,000 worth of damage, according to court documents.
A billboard on the north side of U.S. Highway 64 between Farmington and Bloomfield advertising J.A. Jewelers and Co. was vandalized with the message. The owner of the jewelry store told police that the graffiti, which was situated along the bottom and in the center of the billboard, could not be scrubbed off and would need to be replaced, which would cost him more than $1,000.
Many other locations in Aztec, Bloomfield, Crouch Mesa, Farmington, Flora Vista, Kirtland and La Plata also were tagged with the message, according to court documents. Affected property includes trash bins, signs, light poles, barricades, mailboxes, drive-through call boxes, construction equipment and buildings.
Gus plead guilty or no contest to a driving under the influence charge in March 2012 in Aztec Municipal Court and guilty to speeding by up to 10 mph in December 2013 in Farmington Magistrate Court, according to court records.
Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: This story was modified on Dec. 11, 2017, to note that Delbert Gus is no longer a county employee and that his physical address is outside Bloomfield's city limits. — Ed.