News and Press Releases

Man Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison for Destruction of Petroglyphs in Lake Mead Area

August 22, 2011

Les Vegas, Nev. – A man who used a paint-ball gun to shoot at petroglyphs in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in March 2010, was sentenced today to 15 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $9,995 in restitution, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.

David R. Smith, 21, of Bullhead City, AZ, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Philip M. Pro following a two-hour sentencing hearing in which members of six different Colorado River Indian Tribes addressed the court. Judge Pro also ordered that Smith serve one year of supervised release and perform 50 hours of community work service. Smith pleaded guilty on May 18, 2011, to unlawful defacement of an archeological resource, a felony violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.

In pleading guilty, Smith admitted that while he was in Grapevine Canyon on March 19, 2010, he shot paint-ball pellets at Native American rock art panels and petroglyphs. The Canyon lies within the Lake Mead National Recreational Area, and is just west of Laughlin, Nevada. The area contains over 700 petroglyphs and numerous rock shelters, and is listed on the U.S. Department of the Interior National Register of Historical Places. Smith admitted that when he entered Grapevine Canyon, he passed signs stating that it contained cultural resources and that it was illegal to damage and deface them. Smith also admitted that he knew that the petroglyphs were important to Native Americans. Smith used a fully automatic paint-ball gun and oil-based pellets to shoot at the petroglyphs. Approximately 38 areas containing petroglyphs were defaced, and hundreds of paint balls were scattered and recovered from the Canyon. A National Park Service Ranger responded to the scene, following a report that persons were in the Canyon with spray paint. Smith was with two other individuals, one of whom was a 12-year-old boy.

Colorado River Indian Tribes view the Grapevine Canyon area as sacred and believe it is the birthplace of many Colorado River Indian Tribes. Archeologists believe that the area has been inhabited and used by humans for at least 1100 years.

This investigation was conducted by the United States Park Service, and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kathleen A. Bliss and Nadia J. Ahmed.

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