The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Mural intended to honor victims of gun violence


February 18, 2018

Tony Bullocks

Isaac Castillo says he intended this spray-painted mural to be a memorial to victims of gun violence.

CLOVIS — Isaac Castillo said he intended to make a mural honoring victims of gun violence, including those killed in the Aug. 28 library shooting. But critics say he picked the wrong wall, and he lost some points for presentation.

"He said he was making a memorial," said John Martinez, an employee at the downtown Clovis restaurant that shares a back parking lot with Castillo's work.

"That sure ain't no memorial," added Eddie Martinez, the owner of Eddie's Subs. "It's tacky looking."

It's been at least a month since the offending spray paint went up on the back wall of the building that used to house Sutton's Bakery on the 500 block of Main Street. Since then there has been little ado save for some consternation from the building's current owner and nearby shopkeepers, although city officials have been on scene to consider a response.

Eddie Martinez hopes someone will do something soon.

"The police aren't too much interested in getting this individual, in my opinion, because he keeps coming," he said last week. "I just wish they'd do something about it. Catch him and have him paint this thing on his own time."

Castillo, for his part, offered to do just that when speaking to The News on Thursday. He said he didn't realize he would step on any toes by choosing that wall for his canvas.

"I wouldn't even mind, I'd get the paint myself. I just wish that I could have taken my time on it, and it would be beautiful," he said. "I didn't think that was a wall where somebody would say, 'Hey, that's my wall!' I didn't think nobody would ever look back there or care.

"It's all tagged up and beat up (in the alley behind the storefronts) anyway. At least what I did wasn't gang-affiliated in any way."

Focus on gun violence was the intention

Castillo said he conceived the project sometime in late December or early January when talking with friends about those they knew who had died from gun violence. When he started on the wall — his first such effort with spray paint — he made for the centerpiece the letters R.I.P., and put down the names of the two employees killed in the Aug. 28 shooting at Clovis-Carver Public Library.

Although Castillo did not personally know Wanda Walters or Krissie Carter, he said their deaths made an impact on him.

"It started from the ladies that died at the library," he said. "Then I started thinking of the people I know, family and friends that have died."

As he continued, in what Eddie Martinez said were primarily after-hours visits to the wall free of daytime commotion, Castillo added names of those departed he did know personally.

"Little Wilfred Salas, he died by a pistol from a guy," Castillo said. "Moses Chavez, one of my best friends ... Then my Uncle Moses Ortiz that died from gunfire at a dog fight."

But Castillo has since left the work unfinished, subsequent to being chastised when a nearby store employee caught him in the act. He might consider himself fortunate that police don't seem to have filed charges. Not yet anyway.

Building's owner: 'Just make this right'

Jeffrey Cole, owner of the building in question, said a Clovis police officer took a picture of the wall after he reported the graffiti vandalism around mid-January.

"If it didn't bother Eddie (Martinez), if he did a good job and it was impressive looking, that would be one thing. If he had any artistic ability and it looked pretty decent, I wouldn't care." Cole said Thursday. "But it's ugly.

"He drew a diamond, he drew a heart, he tried to draw some flowers," he added. "But he didn't do very good. It's an eyesore. The names are running into each other and there's no coherence."

Cole has owned the property since 2012 and said there are still plans to one day turn the space into a tap room. As for the graffiti situation, he said he was open to reaching an agreement "if (Castillo) wanted to paint it to keep himself from being arrested."

"I was never keen on him being arrested," Cole said. "If it's a little harebrained idea of his and he can just make this right somehow, it's a live-and-learn situation."

'Intrigued' artist could face prosecution

Marcus Brice is the chief co-compliance officer with the city of Clovis' building safety department. He heads the department's Environmental Response Team, which handles reports of graffiti across the city, among other tasks

"I know there was a complaint down there on Main Street and it was a wall, a complete wall, and we'd have to have a sky lift or something to be able to lift the guys up about 20 feet or so," Brice said.

"I told my boss we weren't equipped to handle that."

He said his small team usually stays busy addressing citizen complaints, handling up to 100 graffiti spots in less than two years since the unit migrated from the public works department.

"We'll try to visit the people or send them a letter in the mail saying, 'Hey, you've got graffiti, if you fill out this waiver form we will eradicate the graffiti,' whether it be by power washing it off or painting over it," he said. "We've had it all over. Probably a lot of it is tagging. I couldn't really tell you because I can't read half of that graffiti stuff. I can't tell the difference if it's a picture or words, it's just a bunch of color."

Although the team stays busy, Brice said he couldn't recall off-hand any especially offensive or standout graffiti, with the exception of the religiously charged defacement to Clovis' Golden Mosque in December. A local construction crew quickly stepped in to paint over that vandalism.

In recent times, there doesn't seem to be much graffiti in town, said District Attorney Andrea Reeb. She said graffiti eradication work by the city's ERT might have something to do with it.

"I used to see it fairly often (over 10 years ago)," she said.

Criminal charges related to graffiti are rare, even in juvenile court, she said.

That doesn't mean a case is strictly out of the question for the likes of Castillo, 30, even if the property owner declines to pursue charges.

"We could still prosecute," Reeb wrote in a message to The News. "We would then weigh things like if it was offensive to someone, a distraction, if the offender was going to clean it up."

If it comes down to that, the penalties are generally suited to the offense.

If the estimated property damage is under $1,000, it's a petty misdemeanor with mandatory community service of 100 hours and restitution to the property owner, Reeb said of the statute. If the damage is greater, so too is the mandatory service and compensation.

Whether Castillo's mural is more misdemeanor than memorial still depends on many factors. The law books define graffiti as consisting of "intentionally and maliciously" defacing property.

Clovis-Carver Public Library Director Margaret Hinchee first saw the art work when The News brought it to her attention on Thursday, and her reaction echoed that of Eddie Martinez.

"It's kind of tacky," she said. "I talked with (Brice). They are aware of the 'mural' and it will be painted over soon."

Castillo emphasized Thursday that he "meant no harm."

"I'd never spray painted before. I was curious and intrigued about learning how to spray paint and cover a big area," he said. "I thought that I had picked a good big wall for it."


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