By Jeff Noble / staff writer
A young man painted parts of the town red in the overnight hours last Saturday, but the brush was sprayed with destruction and hate. As a result, he was arrested Monday morning on four counts of criminal mischief by Corbin Police.
Aron S. Bryant, 24, of Corbin, was charged with first- and second-degree criminal mischief in Knox County, as well as first- and second-degree criminal mischief in Whitley County. He was jailed in the Knox County Detention Center in Barbourville.
He was arrested while he was at work in London at 3:09 a.m. Monday by Patrolman Lonnie Sawyers of the Corbin Police Department. Patrolman Mike Bisschop and John Dean assisted Sawyers in the arrest.
Police said two other men were with Bryant when he bought a can of red spray paint at a local store Saturday during the very early morning hours. The two signed written statements against him, saying Bryant was the one who did the spray painting on property at four Corbin locations.
Maj. Rob Jones of Corbin Police said Monday afternoon the names of the two signing the statements could not be released and that the investigation into the crimes continues.
In Whitley County, Bryant’s accused of spray painting the side of the railroad overpass and underpass on Roy Kidd Avenue, as well as spray painting a van on Stamper Street. In Knox County, he’s charged with spray painting red X’s on windows and a storm door at a house on Hamlin Avenue, as well as spray painting property at an apartment complex on 108 Livingston Street.
It was at two apartments at the complex where the most disruption was done.
There, bright red spray paint was used on the front door, as well as an outside light and decoration of the apartment where Michelle Church, her husband, her mother and four children live. Their next door neighbor’s door and window were also spray painted, and a racial slur was painted on the neighbor’s siding.
The car belonging to Church’s daughter, Taylor Smith, was especially targeted. Obscene words were spray painted on two doors of the white Pontiac Grand Am. Another racial slur was painted on the left front and rear doors, while the front windshield, license plate on the back and other parts of the car got the red treatment.
Outside the apartments, on a concrete wall where the trash dumpster is located, the words “Go Die” were spray painted.
Church stated her daughter, Taylor, was singled out, because the 16-year-old junior at Corbin High School is biracial.
“We’ve lived in Corbin for 11 years. We’ve never had any problems until now,” Church said during an interview Monday.
She added the spray painting happened between 2 a.m. - 3:45 a.m. Church and her husband, Jim Allen, and some friends went to Lexington Friday night to have dinner, and were returning back home to Corbin. When they returned into town around 3 a.m., they decided to go some shopping for a family reunion to be held the next day.
“We were at the Corbin Walmart getting some food to bring to the reunion, and I got a call from my mother around 3:45 a.m. She was up to let the dogs go to the bathroom outside. She said, ‘Taylor’s car has been spray painted.’ And I said, ‘Oh, my God! Really?’ My mother said, ‘Yes, you need to get home now.’ We left Walmart, then went to get our van which was at our friends’ house, and came directly to our house,” she said.
“It must have just happened, because that paint smell hit me right in the face,” stated Church’s mother, Bobbie Jackson.
The first thing Church did was to awaken the maintenance man at the apartment complex, as well as call police. After that, she came inside and woke Taylor.
“She went to the Corbin-South Laurel game in London. She and some friends left at halftime, then they went cruising around Barbourville. She got home at 2 a.m. and went to bed. When I told her the house and her car were spray painted, she just broke down,” Church noted.
“I just started crying, threw my cell phone down, went downstairs, and saw what happened. I said, ‘Oh, my God! Why me? Why my car? I’ve never done anything to deserve this,” said Smith.
By the time her daughter came down the steps, Church said the police were at the apartment. Pictures of the spray painting were taken by her, the police, and by friends of the family. She added police asked Smith if she had any problems at school, at work, or any confrontations at the football game. Her daughter told them there were none.
“She’s a very well-liked kid,” said Church.
While police were still at the residence investigating the spray painting, she had a thought, which had to do with the place her and her husband had visited a few moments earlier.
“I thought, ‘Who would be open at this time of night where you can buy spray paint?’ And we thought, ‘Walmart.’ So we called the Walmart in Corbin, the same place we went to earlier and spoke to the manager. The manager said they actually had three people in hardware spraying paint on a generator box. They picked up one can of paint, didn’t like it, then bought two cans of red spray paint and bought them. It was Krylon Fusion spray paint. Bright red,” Church pointed out.
According to her, the store’s manager had surveillance video of three men with the spray paint. Church said the paint was purchased with a debit card.
“Corbin Police had four cruisers here at our apartment. Two of them left. One went to Walmart to get the surveillance photos, the other one probably went to patrol this area. Then we went to the car wash and scrubbed her car, for three hours in the rain, to get the spray paint off. We got done at the car wash around 7:35 in the morning. We used credit cards to get most of the paint off, and used razor blades to get the paint off the windshield and mirrors,” she said, showing one of the blades the maintenance man at the complex loaned her to remove the paint.
At the car wash, they were met by Corbin Police, who showed her the surveillance pictures from the store.
“They asked us if we knew any of the three suspects. We recognized one, but we couldn’t think of his name. They also asked if we recognized the vehicle in the picture. It was a car, a blue four-door Ford Fusion, but we didn’t at the time. I put the pictures on Facebook, and asked Corbin for their help to find out about these guys and their names,” Church reported.
Three days after the spray painting, her daughter continues to ask the question all her family wants to know — Why?
“Now when I drive, I don’t feel as safe as I once did. I have to look constantly at the rear view mirror and my side mirrors, especially on the backroads. It’s one of those things that everyone’s talking about. My car and home were vandalized. It makes me feel unsafe at home, unless a lot of people are here. I was asleep when this happened. My bedroom window is upstairs, above where it happened. Where my car was spray painted. … I don’t know why it happened. I want to know why it happened,” she said.
“I want them arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent. I want people’s eyes to be opened. Sometimes it takes something like this to get attention. I want the community’s eyes to be opened. It’s pure hatred. To put it on somebody’s house, on somebody’s car? It’s absurd. The ‘Go Die’ saying on the concrete wall where the dumpster is a ludicrous message. It’s pure hatred,” said Taylor’s stepfather, Jim Allen.
Said his wife and Taylor’s mom, Michelle, “I just want the police to arrest them and get Taylor’s car fixed, and find out why this was done. We want justice served.”
By Jeff Noble / staff writer
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