While it was an open and shut case for police, business owners are still dealing with the aftermath of a graffiti spree this weekend that damaged 15 locations.
Detectives believe two Valley men are responsible for the graffiti, tagging one location after the next during a “painting party” that started Friday night and lasted through the weekend.
On Monday, officers arrested Connor Sean McNeeley, 19, and Francisco Luis Manquero, 18, both of the Valley.
Police Chief Don Engler attributed their swift arrest to an eyewitness tip and solid police work.
McNeeley and Manquero reportedly arrived in Payson sometime Friday and started tagging businesses around town, starting with Circle K south on the Beeline Highway.
In all, the men reportedly tagged 15 locations all along the Beeline Highway, including several gas stations, retail shops, Dumpsters, a hotel and two semi trucks. They allegedly tagged one truck on the hood and fenders, causing significant damage, Engler said.
When Officer Lorenzo Ortiz investigated the graffiti, he recognized the tags as that of McNeeley based on prior graffiti he had seen, Engler said.
Although Ortiz had a good hunch, officers hadn’t pinpointed the location of the vandals.
Then on Monday, police got a tip from someone who had witnessed what they thought were two men photographing the graffiti at Circle K. Thinking this odd, they reported the activity.
Police caught up with McNeeley and Manquero walking down the Beeline Highway a short time later, he said.
They reportedly had paint on their fingers.
In questioning, both men reportedly admitted to officers they had done the tagging, Engler said.
Officers, however, never found any photographs of the graffiti.
Engler said it does not appear the graffiti is part of any gang activity and the damage to businesses and the trucks likely exceeds $10,000.
The men were charged with felony criminal damage and police are still compiling other charges, Engler said.
Last year, McNeeley was found guilty of possession of drug paraphernalia in Gila County as well as aggravated assault and possession of marijuana in Maricopa County, according to online court records.
The GCSO released McNeeley to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office this week on a probation violation. Manquero bonded out on Feb. 5 on $500.