Police arrest Oakland, Shadyside graffiti artist


Max Gonzales, 22, is a Carnegie Mellon University student. Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

City police’s graffiti squad arrested a Carnegie Mellon University student Monday for racking up $114,030 in damages during an alleged cross-city graffiti spree.

Police charged Max Emiliano Gonzales, who is pursuing a bachelor in fine arts, with 58 counts of criminal mischief relating to defacement of city and private property at 58 separate locations, according to a police report.

According to a press release from the Department of Public Safety, Gonzales was one of the graffiti squad’s most-wanted offenders.

The grafitti tags, which include “GEMS,” “BTK,” “312” and a wizard character, appear on electrical boxes, dumpsters and buildings in South Oakland, Shadyside, the East End and other neighborhoods.

Police determined that the “GEMS” tag represented Gonzales’ initials backwards and “312” represented Gonzales’ area code from his hometown in Illinois, according to the report. Police also noted that “BTK” stands for Gonzales’ graffiti crew, “Born to Krush,” also known as “Born to Kill,” and “Blood, Terror and Karate.”

On Nov. 12, 2015, Gonzales allegedly tagged an East End Brewing Company box truck with “GEMS” and “BTK,” which stands for Born to Krush, according to a press release.  An employee alerted the police, informing them that Gonzales is a CMU art student, according to the report.

The police report stated Gonzales’ former professor told detectives he found spray paint and a graffiti sketchbook — with “GEMS” and “BTK” in it — in Gonzales’ backpack two years ago when he left the backpack in class.

According to the report, detectives also found Gonzales’ Facebook profile, which featured “numerous [pictures] of art and graffiti art,” including the “BTK” tag. Gonzales appears to have since deleted the pictures.

Detectives interviewed Gonzales Jan. 20, questioning him and showing him photographs of the graffiti tags, according to the report.

Gonzales then confirmed the photos were of his work, signed a statement admitting to committing the crime and agreed to cooperate with the police investigation, according to the arrest papers.

Gonzales, who is originally from Willowbrook, Illinois, did not respond to a phone call or an email requesting comment.

Gonzales is awaiting a preliminary hearing set for 8 a.m. Feb. 11.

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