Edmonds man charged for vandalizing ‘I Can’t Breathe’ artwork

Richard Tuttle faces up to a year in jail or a $5,000 fine. He allegedly told police he did it.

EDMONDS — Prosecutors filed charges Monday against the Edmonds man accused of vandalizing the “I Can’t Breathe” artwork painted on a Civic Field fence in July.

Authorities say Richard Tuttle, 69, used black paint to erase the first “T” in the phrase that has become a rallying cry at nationwide protests against police brutality. In fact, he visited the police precinct with a newspaper article about the vandalism and told an officer he did it, according to a report obtained by The Daily Herald.

“I made the front page of the paper,” he allegedly said.

Now he’s charged with third-degree malicious mischief in Edmonds Municipal Court. He’s scheduled to appear before Judge Linda Coburn in September, and he faces a maximum punishment of a year in jail or a $5,000 fine.

In July, an Edmonds Police Department detective recommended hate-crime charges for Tuttle. But Snohomish County prosecutors declined, saying they didn’t have enough evidence.

To convict someone of a hate crime, prosecutors must prove damage to a victim or property of a victim, malice, and that the suspect acted because of their perception of the victim’s race.

Any evidence that suggested Tuttle knew the 18-year-old artist is Black was speculative and would not hold up in court, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Matthew Baldock wrote.

Christabel Jamison went through the proper channels before painting the artwork.

She approached the city and applied to the Edmonds Art Commission. In turn, Jamison received $500 for her work, which took about 40 hours to install.

Shortly after the fence was vandalized, a group of residents helped restore the artwork.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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