ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – There’s new information about the defacing of a black history mural at Washington University: the man accused of the crime, the group he allegedly “tagged” with white supremacist graffiti, and his connection to a Chesterfield political candidate.
The alleged December vandalism is a felony property damage crime. According to police, 24-year-old Mitchell Wagner of Florissant covered the faces of black historical figures with white paint and, in red letters, added the web address of the white supremacist group, Patriot Front.
Patriot Front is for “flash mob” demonstrations with participants covering most of their heads and faces with white scarfs and ball caps.
“It’s definitely a revisit to the KKK days where you may as well put a hood over your head,” said John Bowman, president of the St. Louis County NAACP.
For him, the group’s message and tactics may be more concerning than the garb.
Its website features claims such as: “Americans will fully recognize themselves as a people, not merely citizens or residents of a country, but a people bearing a unique national interest rooted in our heritage on this continent. Our people, born to this nation of our European race, must reforge themselves…The corrupt and ineffective State which subverts the national interest to favor a global plutocracy is no longer legitimate to govern and must face alteration or abolition.”
“Here you are, you want to take and demean the best of us … you want to diminish their value because of your hatred and your ignorance. It’s serious,” Bowman said.
A St. Louis artist along with six young people he was mentoring painted the mural in August of 2020.
University officials are still aghast by what happened, calling it a “despicable act of vandalism to a beautiful and meaningful work of art.” The statement also said, “It’s reassuring to know someone is being held accountable.”
There’s also new information about Wagner that has nothing to do with that group, Patriot Front. It turns out he’s the stepson of a candidate for the Chesterfield City Council.
His stepmother, candidate Tamarah Wagner, issued a statement through her attorney, Travis Noble, saying she “had no prior knowledge of any action he may have taken; no knowledge of the investigation or action alleged to have occurred. She obviously wouldn’t condone this type of behavior.”
“It’s not something that can just be blown off and taken as just another story. There’s an organized effort out there to bring harm to people simply because of their color, their religion, or their sexual orientation,” Bowman said.
Wagner faces up to four years in prison if convicted. He’s due in court, next month.
Surveillance video revealed three other people with Wagner defacing the mural, according to police. So far, he’s the only suspect to be arrested and charged.