CMU art student tagged by police as prolific graffiti criminal
February 2, 2016 12:06 AM
Max Emiliano Gonzales, 22, of Bloomfield was responsible for using spray paint or thick indelible markers to write “GEM,” “312,” “BTK” and variations of those characters on walls, utility poles, bridges and other structures over the past couple of years.
Police say this is a sample of the body of work produced illegally by Max Gonzales, a Carnegie Mellon University student accused of causing an estimated $114,000 in damage in 58 locations, mostly in the East End.
By Dan Majors / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A Carnegie Mellon University art student — tagged by the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Graffiti Squad as No. 1 on the city’s list of most-wanted offenders — was charged Monday with 58 counts of criminal mischief involving more than $114,000 of damage in the city’s East End.
According to a criminal complaint filed Friday, Max Emiliano Gonzales, 22, of Bloomfield was responsible for using spray paint or thick indelible markers to write “GEM,” “312,” “BTK” and variations of those characters on walls, utility poles, bridges and other structures over the past couple of years.
His graffiti tags, police said, could be seen in Oakland, Shadyside, East Liberty and Bloomfield, particularly along Penn, Liberty, Fifth, Ellsworth and South Negley avenues, as well as Gross and Neville streets.
The break in the case, according to Officer Alphonso Sloan of the graffiti squad, came Nov. 12, when an employee at East End Brewery in Larimer reported a box truck being defaced with “GEMS” and “BTK.” The witness recognized Mr. Gonzales as an art student at Carnegie Mellon University.
Detectives went to the university, where an employee told them that Mr. Gonzales — a junior who plays on the CMU hockey team — had left a bookbag containing spray paint and a graffiti sketchbook in a classroom a couple of years earlier. The sketchbook contained sketches with “GEMS” and “BTK.”
A search of Mr. Gonzales’ Facebook page revealed numerous pictures of graffiti art with “BTK,” police said.
“The graffiti tags GEM, GEMS, 312, Gemonious and BTK are prominent throughout the city of Pittsburgh, mainly on the East End, where Gonzales resides,” Officer Sloan said in the complaint. “It was determined the 312 tag was the area code from Gonzales’ hometown in [Willowbrook] Illinois and the extension for his cell phone. It was also determined that the GEM tag represented Gonzales’ initials backwards. The BTK tag stands for Gonzales’ graffiti crew, ‘Born to Krush,’ also known as ‘Born to Kill’ and ‘Blood, Terror and Karate.’ ”
A search of police records revealed Mr. Gonzales had been issued a nontraffic citation in May 2013 after a witness saw him put “GEM” on a wall at 5750 Centre Ave.
Officer Sloan said detectives interviewed Mr. Gonzales Jan. 20 at the CMU Police Department, where he was shown pictures of graffiti from the 58 locations. After being read his rights, Mr. Gonzales admitted the work was his and signed a confession, police said.
He faces 32 counts of criminal mischief with damage exceeding $150; 19 counts exceeding $1,000; and seven counts exceeding $5,000.
It was not known if Mr. Gonzales, who could not be reached for comment, has an attorney.
Abby Simmons, a CMU spokeswoman, confirmed Mr. Gonzales was a student there but would not comment on whether he faced discipline from the university.
“We’re leaving this up to the Pittsburgh police,” Ms. Simmons said.
Dan Majors: firstname.lastname@example.org and 412-263-1456.