Visalia, CA – Authorities have arrested the man who vandalized a highway sign honoring two fallen Tulare County law enforcement members on Wednesday after he tagged the sign in spray paint with his own nickname.
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said he was “disgusted and disheartened” in a post to the sheriff’s department’s official Facebook page on Sept. 30 after it was discovered that the tribute to the local heroes had been desecrated.
“To the person who spray painted hateful, anti-police rhetoric on the highway sign dedicated to the memory of our fallen deputy and pilot, you DID NOT accomplish what you think you did,” the post began. “Despite your hate, the men and women of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office will continue to protect and serve EVERYONE who needs them just like Deputy Scott Ballantyne and Pilot James Chavez were doing the day they died in the line of duty.”
“We can only hope the families of Deputy Ballantyne and Pilot Chavez didn’t drive by and witness this disgraceful disregard for the lives of their loved ones,” the sheriff’s department added.
The sheriff made sure the graffiti was immediately removed from the sign and that the tribute was restored to its original condition, according to the post.
Sheriff Boudreaux called the vandalism of the memorial sign “an act of cowards.”
The fatal crash occurred after Tulare County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Ballantyne and Sheriff’s Pilot James Chavez were helping deputies on the ground look for a suspect brandishing a firearm near Lake Success on Feb. 10, 2016, KFSN reported.
The suspect was apprehended and taken into custody and the CTLE Ultralight known as “Sheriff One” was preparing to leave the area when it suddenly lost altitude.
The little plane crashed into a mountainside in the area of Route 190 in Springville, the Officer Down Memorial Page reported.
Both 52-year-old Deputy Ballantyne and 45-year-old Pilot Chavez died in the crash.
The deputy was a 27-year veteran of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Three years after the heroes were killed in the line of duty, a section of Highway 90 was dedicated to them and renamed the “Deputy Scott Ballantyne and Pilot James Chavez Memorial Highway,” KMPH reported.
The memorial signs were installed on the highway shortly thereafter to remind residents of their eternal sacrifice for the community, and Wednesday was the first time they were vandalized.
Deputies investigated the graffiti and quickly identified the culprit, according to a second post on the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page.
On Thursday, Tulare County sheriff’s deputies arrested 22-year-old Devon Young of Porterville and the department shared the good news on social media.
“Yesterday, we told you about the disgraceful damage done to the highway dedication sign honoring fallen TCSO Deputy Scott Ballantyne and Sheriff’s Pilot James Chavez. The sign bearing their name and memory was cowardly vandalized with anti-police hate speech,” the department wrote.
“Today, however, we’re happy to report the person who did this won’t be destroying more property any time soon,” the post continued. “22-year-old Devon Young of Porterville was arrested this afternoon, after TCSO Deputies linked him to the crime.”
“Young tagged the highway dedication sign with his nickname, which helped Deputies track him down at his girlfriend’s house in Lindsay,” the sheriff’s department explained.
A picture of Young was shared along with the post that showed the man had a tattoo with his nickname “Reckless” across his chest.
The sheriff’s department said in their Facebook post that Young was out of prison on parole for robbery when he vandalized the memorial sign.
He was found to be in violation of that parole on Oct. 1 and taken into custody, according to the authorities.
The post said that Tulare County sheriff’s deputies conducted a search of Young’s home and found evidence linking the suspect to the desecration of the memorial sign.
Young is facing vandalism charges.