Tire marks on the new Black Lives Matter road mural in Putney.

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PUTNEY — The Windham County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the appearance of tire marks on a Black Lives Matter mural painted on Westminster West Road in front of the Putney Central School.

However, said Sheriff Mark Anderson, “I’m not sure a crime has occurred.”

Anderson said operating a vehicle in a manner that causes burn-out marks can result in a civil violation, but no criminal charges. However, he said, he is hoping to review surveillance footage from Putney Central School that might help identify the driver and determine if the driver operated a vehicle in a negligent manner, which can result in misdemeanor criminal charges.

At this time, said Anderson, it’s not entirely clear when it occurred and even if it was deliberate.

Anderson said the tire marks appear to have been made by a dual rear-wheeled truck. The tire marks traverse the entire length of the mural. There are several other smaller, lighter sets of marks.

In terms of vandalism, which could be cited under the state’s unlawful mischief statute, there has to be some damage to property, said Anderson, who said he is consulting with legal counsel to determine if tire burn-outs constitute damage to property.

“It’s too fine a line for a law enforcement officer to make a determination,” he said.

And while this could also be considered defacement of public property, it has to rise to a certain level of monetary damage to be considered a crime.

According to statements posted to the I Love Putney, Vermont Facebook page, while there have been small tire marks left over the past few days, a long mark the entire length of the mural didn’t appear until after a vehicle convoy in support of President Donald Trump on Saturday.

“[I]t truly is a remarkable coincidence that the marks happened at the exact same time as the Trump train drive through, and the precise length of the mural,” wrote one commenter.

Another commenter said when he saw the convoy at 1:45 p.m. he observe “a semi leading the way.”

But another poster urged people not to jump to conclusions.

“Looks like there was a rig with a trailer that [probably] rolled through and had to lock breaks up for some little one crossing quick. Happens all the time. Nothing more than some tight breaks on an empty trailer.”

The Reformer reached out to the Equity and Inclusion Committee, which met on Monday and discussed the incident. A spokeswoman said the committee will be releasing a statement later this week.

To get involved in maintaining the mural, contact the Equity and Inclusion Committee via its Facebook page or email equityandinclusioncommittee@gmail.com.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Deputy Jalava at 802-365-4940 or bjalava@windhamcountyvt.gov.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.


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