News and Press Releases

Two Sentenced in Federal Court for Defacing Red Elk Rock Shelter

February 29, 2012

COEUR D'ALENE – U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced today that two Lewiston men were sentenced in United States District Court this week for defacing the Red Elk Rock Shelter, a site located within the area traditionally occupied by the ancestors of the Nez Perce Indian Tribe, and which continues to be of cultural and spiritual significance to tribal members today.

Freddie Michael Bernal, 21, and Tyler James Carlson, 23, were sentenced for willful injury or depredation of property of the United States. Bernal, who was convicted by a federal jury in October 2011, was also sentenced for making a false statement to the FBI. U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge sentenced Bernal today to 36 months in prison on each count, to run concurrent, followed by three years of supervised release. Carlson, who pled guilty to the single charge prior to trial, was sentenced on Tuesday to four months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Bernal and Carlson were each ordered to pay restitution of $33,333.33, their portion of the $100,000 restitution calculated by the court.

According to court documents, on February 7, 2010, Bernal, Carlson and co-defendant Jerad Bovencamp hiked to the Red Elk Rock Shelter, a site located south of Lewiston's Hells Gate State Park, and used spray paint to deface the rock face of the shelter. The site's basalt wall has red pigmented pictographs, or rock art, including animal figures and geometric shapes that may date as far back as 2,500 years. By their actions, the defendants caused approximately $100,000 damage. Repairs to the shelter will require the services of a rock art conservator.

Co-defendant Bovencamp, 24, also of Lewiston, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 18 at the federal courthouse in Coeur d'Alene. On October 3, 2011, he pled guilty to willful injury or depredation of property of the United States.

The Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee released the following statement: “The Nez Perce Tribe is pleased with the outcome and appreciates the United States taking affirmative action under federal law in response to the damage done to the Nez Perce pictographs on the rock face. The pictographs and the location itself has immeasurable cultural and historical value. The importance of protecting and preserving such sites cannot be overstated, and such vandalism should not be tolerated.”

“These defendants' acts of vandalism irreparably harmed cultural artifacts, causing thousands of dollars of damage,” said Olson. “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.”

The case was investigated by the Nez Perce County Sheriff's Office, the Nez Perce Tribal Police, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Idaho Parks Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.