PORTLAND, Ore — The call to police came in just before midnight on Feb. 23. Employees at a strip club in Old Town had spotted vandals tagging a nearby building. When officers arrived, they could see three people spray painting the Oregon Leather Company. The suspected vandals ran off. Two of them escaped. One did not. Police suggest he was caught red-handed, literally.
“Emile Laurent had fresh red paint on his hands,” wrote officer Nathan Kirby-Glatkowski in a search warrant affidavit after reviewing incident reports.
According to officers directly involved, Laurent also had “white specks of paint all over his face, shirt and pants.”
Investigators would eventually link Laurent to dozens of other vandalism cases across Portland over the past two years. Prosecutors believe he is responsible for tagging buildings, walls and signs with the moniker "TENDO," thought to be shorthand for Nintendo.
On Wednesday, Laurent appeared in Multnomah County Circuit Court. He pleaded not guilty to 25 counts of criminal mischief. Both Laurent and his defense lawyer declined to comment.
A judge allowed Laurent to travel to Europe for two weeks for contractual obligations with the apparel firm Polar Skate Co. Laurent, a professional skateboarder, is heavily promoted by the Swedish company and appears on its website as a team member. Polar did not respond to KGW’s request for comment.
On April 28, Portland police searched Laurent’s home in Northeast Portland. Officers recovered spray paint cans, heavy markers and various practice pads, paper and other items with the "TENDO" tag, according to the search warrant. Graffiti vandals often practice their tag many times before putting it up outdoors.
Prosecutors believe Laurent is responsible for nearly $20,000 in damages to both public and private property. Victims include an ambulance company, construction company, storage company and Portland General Electric. Investigators included various photos of property damaged with the "TENDO" tag in the search warrant signed by Judge Eric Dahlin.
In 2018, Laurent was charged with criminal mischief, although the case was later dropped. According to court records, officers stopped Laurent and another man suspected of spray painting the Sandy Boulevard Rectal Clinic in Northeast Portland. Officers said they found a can of spray paint in Laurent’s pocket and another can in his backpack. Laurent told an officer he was making art to impress a girl, according to court records.
Portland leaders hope to crackdown on the graffiti and vandalism that’s tarnished the city’s image and reputation. Research suggests it’s a relatively small number of offenders responsible for a significant share of the vandalism.