0

Police arrest two men in string of graffiti taggings

SNELLVILLE -- Police have arrested two Gwinnett men in connection with a nighttime graffiti spree that targeted a high school campus and other locations Tuesday.

Snellville police charged Calvin Murphy Jr., 22, and Conrad Marquez, 30, of Snellville, with multiple counts of damaging government property in the alleged escapade, which ended about 11 p.m. at South Gwinnett High School, police said.

Taggings included the numbers "616" -- an area code from the Boston area, from which Murphy hails -- and the word "NOW," among other symbols, said Snellville police Chief Roy Whitehead.

Along with the school, the taggers hit Gwinnett Foot, Ankle and Leg Center on North Road, a SunTrust Bank branch, a U.S. Postal Service location and a retention wall, street sign and fence, all along Wisteria Drive, Whitehead said.

"They denied it as gang activity, and we didn't have sufficient evidence to charge them with it," Whitehead said. "Their ages ... are unusual for this type of activity."

Maintenance staff at South Gwinnett alerted police to the vandalism about 11:15 p.m., reporting that a blue PT Cruiser had just fled the scene.

"Our investigation led us to Murphy, and we developed evidence linking him to the crime," Whitehead said. "Attempting to locate the vehicle led us to Marquez."

According to arrest warrants, the men defaced several walls at the school, two classroom trailers and two driver education vehicles.

Damage estimates exceed $1,000. The duo allegedly emptied two spray cans of paint.

The area-code connection aside, Whitehead wouldn't say how police were able to develop the two as suspects. City ordinances mandate that graffiti be removed as soon as possible, he said.

Gwinnett County Public Schools spokesman Jorge Quintana said Thursday all graffiti has been removed from the South Gwinnett campus.