MARQUETTE - A 25-year-old Marquette man suspected in the ink or paint tagging at hundreds of locations throughout the city has been arrested by police and was arraigned Tuesday on several charges.
Alexander John Watanen was arrested Monday night after allegedly fleeing police. He is currently free on bond and is scheduled to appear next in Marquette County District Court for a preliminary hearing and pretrial conference at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 2.
Watanen was arraigned on one count of assaulting, resisting or obstructing a police officer, which is a 2-year felony. He was also charged with two misdemeanors of malicious destruction of personal property less than $200 and one misdemeanor of malicious destruction of a building less than $200. The misdemeanors are punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine.
The “Gerko” graffiti tag can be seen on a sign at the intersection of Blaker and Front streets and on the fire escape at Marquette Alternative High School. (Journal photos by Dan Weingarten)
Police said additional charges against Watanen may be pending.
At 11:48 p.m. Monday, police responded to the 500 block of Hawley Street on a report of a male subject writing on a dumpster.
Police said the witness who called police had gone outside with his dog and saw the suspect running away from a dumpster. The subject then allegedly jumped on a bike. The witness then saw the suspect stop and write something on a sign before leaving the area.
Police arrived on the scene and got a description of the alleged tagger. Soon after, an officer saw a male matching the description of the suspect riding his bike behind a business along Presque Isle Avenue.
Police said the officer followed the suspect and caught up to him as he parked next to the back door of a business. The officer said the suspect then allegedly pulled an object, believed to be an ink marker, from his pocket.
The suspect then allegedly fled from police and was chased for several blocks. Watanen was arrested by officers after he came out of a wooded area, where police alleged he had been hiding.
Police said the investigation found that Watanen allegedly had written the word "Gerko" on the dumpster and street sign in the 500 block of Hawley Street. Officers said the same word has been found in dozens of reports involving vandalism in the city of Marquette and Marquette Township.
Police said the tag can be found in hundreds of locations around the city.
Northern Michigan University Public Safety and the Marquette County Sheriff's Office assisted in the investigation.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.