Escalante, UT – A Utah man was charged with a hate crime for vandalizing a “Back the Blue” sign earlier this summer.
The incident occurred on Aug. 11 outside a Canyon Country gas station, St. George News reported.
According to witnesses, 32-year-old Sandy resident Joseph Taft Dawson pulled up to the busines with at least two women.
While the women headed inside, Dawson wandered around outside the building, according to St. George News.
Dawson then spotted a “Back the Blue” sign and decided to go spray-paint it pink, according to court documents.
A customer witnessed the vandalism and confronted Dawson about it, police said.
The customer ended up grabbing the sign away from him, then “wiped the paint from the sign onto the suspect’s head,” an officer wrote in the police report.
Dawson and the two women drove off a short while later, at which point someone called police about the incident, St. George News reported.
A Garfield County deputy spotted the suspect vehicle near mile marker 73 on Route 12 at the Escalante River trailhead and initiated a traffic stop.
Dawson allegedly confessed to having spray-painted the pro-police sign, and told deputies that he changed it to “Back the Bisexual” instead of “Back the Blue,” St. George News reported.
The customer had already told police he had rubbed the paint from the sign onto Dawson’s head, which Dawson also confirmed had occurred, according to police.
The suspect said he left immediately after the confrontation because he knew the customer “could have beat the s—t out of him,” an officer wrote in the police report.
Police allegedly found THC wax and other drug paraphernalia inside the suspect’s vehicle, according to St. George News.
He was arrested on charges of misdemeanor graffiti, paraphernalia, and drug possession offenses, and was booked into the Garfield County jail.
Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins said that the incident involving Dawson was among a slew of vandalisms that occurred throughout the county over the summer, St. George News reported.
Many of those offenses involved people writing derogatory, anti-police messages, which has had a negative impact on the department’s morale, Sheriff Perkins noted.
“You come into my county and destroy our treasures – whether it’s a bridge, a monument or anything else – you will be arrested and charged,” he said. “That’s it.”
Sheriff Perkins forwarded Dawson’s case to the Utah Attorney General’s Office to be reviewed as a possible hate crime, St. George News reported.
The state’s attorney agreed, and enhanced the charge to a class A misdemeanor.
Dawson was ultimately convicted and sentenced to two days in jail, St. George News reported.
He was also fined $500 and ordered to complete 12 months of probation.