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Arrest made after Black history mural on Washington University campus vandalized with racist graffiti

Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 2:37 PM CST
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CLAYTON (KMOV) – A man was arrested months after a mural on the Washington University campus that honors prominent figures from Black history was vandalized with racist graffiti.

On Dec. 18, Washington University officers were notified the mural had been defaced. The mural, located at the South 40 Underpass, depicts famous African Americans, including John Lewis and Chadwick Boseman. The school said someone painted over the faces and added the symbol and name of a white supremacist group.

Surveillance video helped officers identify a vehicle that was seen at the time of the vandalism. The license plates on the car matched 24-year-old Mitchell Wagner, who was later arrested and charged with first-degree property damage, according to the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office. The surveillance video also allegedly showed three other individuals vandalizing the mural.

A painting of John Lewis, the late U.S. Representative and civil rights activist, was...
A painting of John Lewis, the late U.S. Representative and civil rights activist, was vandalized with white supremacy logos.(KMOV News 4)

De’Joneiro Jones, one of the artists who helped paint the mural, said he immediately went to see the mural after he got an email about the vandalism. The estimated cost to restore the mural is over $10,000.

“I don’t understand how people can destroy something that people put work in just because you don’t agree with something,” he said after seeing the vandalism firsthand. Jones told News 4 the hateful action will not shy him away from painting the underpass again.

In a statement, the university said it is investigating and worked to remove the white supremacist name and symbols from the mural. It said students moved quickly to cover the symbols.

“Let us say again, so there is absolutely no room for doubt: Washington University stands unequivocally against hate, bigotry, racism, xenophobia and discrimination in any form,” the statement said. “There is no place on our campus for these behaviors and this type of harmful action will not be tolerated or ignored.”