Graffiti found at national park may be tied to prison gang

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. -- Investigators believe gang members with ties to the Mexican Mafia were behind the Memorial Day weekend defacing of rocks along a trail in Yosemite National Park.

Authorities are continuing their search for those who may have sprayed graffiti on rocks along the Mist Trail, which leads to the summit of Half Dome. Rangers are hoping that some law enforcement agencies can recognized the tags.

"At this point, we've just been sharing information to see what particular groups or individuals have this type of tagging," said park spokesman Scott Gediman.

Park rangers found the graffiti on rocks over the Memorial Day weekend when an estimated 2,000 people used the trail.

So far, investigators have determined that the words "SUR," "XIII" and "CHON" written on rocks appear to belong to a street gang active in several areas around the state, said Carolyn Corriea, a graffiti investigator for the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.

The number 13 represents the letter M (the 13th letter of the alphabet) for Mexican Mafia and "CHON" is possibly the moniker of the person who tagged the rocks, she said. The Mexican Mafia is a gang with roots in the state prison system.

"There's a chance that it's one person that did it and there's a chance that he could be found," Corriea said. "It possible, but I wouldn't call it easy."

Rangers have scrubbed away the graffiti, but some damage was done to one of the rocks during the removal process.

"You can see a little bit of discoloration on the rock that will probably be eased through the weathering process," said Raye Santos, a park spokeswoman.

Last year, a 19-year-old Riverside man was arrested after tagging dozens of trees, rocks, tent cabins and buildings at Yosemite. The man was caught with the help of local police who recognized the tags.

Michael Trevino pleaded guilty to 10 counts of vandalism for defacing park property. He was sentenced to 120 days in federal prison and placed on probation for two years. He also was ordered to reimburse the park for cleanup costs.


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