Props to the Cops Vol. 18 – Major Graffiti Arrest Made

Photo of ‘Statue – Fingerprint of a Vandal’ by PoPville flickr user mosley.brian

From MPD:

Tagging and illegal graffiti are one of those occasional hot topics that affect a large portion of our citizens in varying degrees. It’s a very visible indicator of disorder, but is extremely hard for law enforcement to address in a comprehensive manner. It is underreported as a crime, even though the city, small businesses, BIDs and citizens spend significant resources to combat it.

Given that, I want to give kudos to our 5D Vice Officer Jonathan Jordan, who arrested a major player in DC’s tagging/graffiti subculture Sunday morning. Known by the moniker Asad ULTRA Walker, aka “MAR5”, this subject is a leader and founding member of the “KGB” graffiti crew that dates back to at least the early 90s. Current members of this crew are responsible for a huge amount of the graffiti across the city, including the Shaw, Columbia Heights, Brookland and Eckington neighborhoods. I’m sure many of you will recognize the “MAR5” and “KGB” tags.

I encourage the 5D community to report tagging and illegal graffiti as the crimes they are. I also want to recognize the excellent work by Officer Jordan and provide his contact information in case anyone has additional questions or information. He can be reached at [email protected] Hopefully, with the community’s help, we can take additional steps to combat this disorder.

Sergeant Jon Dorrough

127 Comment


  • Way to go!

  • Is there such a thing as legal graffiti? Did they make that distinction in order to back up their claim that it is a sign of disorder?

  • Meh. I’d rather worry about stray paint than stray bullets. Do some real police work.

  • For those that comment on this thread, do you think there is a difference between tagging and graffiti or “street” art? Personally, I really like street art by the likes of Banksy et al. and wonder where/if the city draws a line between this and in what my mind seem to be meaningless tagging like this?

    • the city draws the line when public property is painted. or when private property is painted against the owners wishes.

    • I think street art is graffiti. Banksy is interesting, provoking, and fabulous, but it’s still graffiti. marking up property that is not your own is still illegal, even if it is thoughtful.

    • heck yes. huge difference. also big difference between crap street artists and witty, skilled ones.

    • Street artists are white.

    • There may be a difference, but if it’s on my fence or house it’s crap all the same!

    • Ack! meant to reply to this but it posted downthread so I’m reposting shortened version:

      I’d say there can be a difference.

      Basically I think it boils down to a mix of skill and intent. If the person doing the tagging is doing so to mark their territory, brag, or destroy property just to destroy property, it’s likely to be of no artistic value and very ill received. If you have someone who’s trying to create something of visual interest or beauty and chooses to put it in a public place to benefit the public, I think you’ll find people tend to be more receptive. Same goes for political/informational intent a la Shepard Fairey. The latter is probably also less likely do do so on someone’s house or a store front without consent but will probably take blighted or abandoned properties as fair game (IMO, why shouldn’t they? Its an eyesore as it is & I’d rather have it covered in art!)

      But ultimately, the property owner makes the call. It’d be cool if we had some free walls in the city. That, in theory, would separate douchebags from law-breaking but good-hearted artists.

  • This is a guy who has been featured in the frigging Smithsonian. DC police needs to stop arresting artists and focus on getting real criminals.

    • Would you let him paint on your house? On your car?

      • You are obviously not familiar with his art.

        • I’m a fan of creative and well done graffiti, but bubble letters is art? damn, I was a prodigy at 10 year old then!

          • Edit: I’m not familiar with his work, so I may be mixing up a quick google search versus his actual artwork. If that’s the case, a link would be great.

        • Regardless, would you let him paint on your house? On your car?

          • I have had friends do graffitti inside my house. So the answer is yes. I think you keep asking instead of getting familiar with his work. So here:

          • I don’t need to be familiar with his work (a subjective matter) to know that painting anything on someone’s private property without the consent of the owner is illegal and wrong, regardless of how amazing some people think the painting is.

            Asking friends to graffiti the *inside* of your house is totally different than waking up one morning to find someone has tagged the *exterior* wall of your home. Please tell me you understand the difference.

            Now, having said that, I do like the work… as long as it’s done with the owner’s permission. I’m assuming that since the police rounded this guy up, that’s not strictly the case.

        • +1
          The MAR5 tags I see around are total crap…zero artistic value – this dude shouldn’t be referred to as a graff artist, no matter what your position on the graffiti issue is.

          • I see the link to the mural on Sherman Ave below – and that is a totally different situation…I’m just referring the the simple MAR5 tags I see on light posts.

          • Where do you see Mar5 On lamp posts? I’ve NEVER EVER seen this. Are you sure you don’t need a graff translator? Those jonts are real hard to read…

            Really people. I understand being mad at taggers, but you don’t have the right guy for that. Asad is a muralist. Arrested for carrying spray paint after leaving work. Period.

            I hope you’ll all attend:

        • Regardless of his artisitic talents, drawing on public or private property without permission is still illegal graffiti and a criminal act.

          You choosing to allow an artist to draw on the interior walls of your home is an entirely different matter, and is more akin to commissioned artwork.

          • @fz Look at how beautiful that art is, and it has such a deep meaning that I can just feel that artists pain. I’m sure when you wake up and find that on your garage door or front door one day you will be thrilled and appreciate how much of a struggle the young lad who painted your house went through to become such a gifted artist

      • On my house… HELLS YEA! I have never seen graffi put on a car so I think that doesn’t really apply. But seriously, i’m not going to applaud nor scorn the police for catching a graffiti artist. There are bigger crimes, but, still, graffiti is a crime. If it wern’t the whole artform would be without a distinction. Only complaint is POP catagorizing this as “props to the cops” They caught a graffiti writer, not exactly top notch police work.

    • so fame negates one from having to obey laws?

  • I think senseless beatings and shootings should be a top priority in this hell ridden city, not vandals.

    • who says they aren’t? you understand that we must address many issues at once, right?

    • If you do not stop vandalism,why stop any other crime?
      As artistic as it is,graffiti(vandalism) IS ILLEGAL.

    • I agree. Cops should prioritize beating graffittists senseless. The beating of vandals should be a lower priority.

  • has anyone here been in DC long enough to remember ‘Cool Disco Dan’? A legend in the 80s…

  • Of course shootings should be a top priority. But that doesn’t mean the police should simply ignore all other crimes. Graffiti creates an enormous amount of work, expense and aggravation for both private property owners and the city. Not to mention contribute to a general feeling of lawlessness / disorder when left unaddressed or unabated. And 99/100, it just looks like crap and makes neighborhoods far less attractive to live in. It is crazy to suggest, as some on this thread have, that the police should simply ignore relatively minor crimes, and ONLY focus on the most serious. Otherwise, there will be nothing to deter all sorts of criminals.

    Speaking of deterrence, for a repeat and major player like this, there needs to be be some real deterrence. At least some time in jail for sure, followed by a lengthy probation including a community service component involving cleaning up graffiti and trash all over the city. Put those who ugly-up the city to work cleaning … that is the only way they will understand the effort it takes to remedy their misconduct.

    • no it doesnt. The VAST majority of tags are on abandoned buildings or squalid industrial warehouses and such. Or on signposts/electric boses etc. Not exactly nice looking to start with. Frankly, in my opinion tagging does a service by pointing out underused or abandoned places. Also, like everthing else, the police hugely overestimate the cost of cleaning this up.

      • It is costing me $450 to remove someone’s “tag” from the hood of my new car. It was put there by the same idiots who spray painted their tags all over the new Park at Ledroit. I hope ULTRA rots in prison for promoting this bullshit.

      • Actually, the vast majority of tags THAT NO ONE PAYS TO CLEAN UP are on abandoned or squalid buildings. That’s why they remain and lead you to believe that these sites are the primary focus of these vandals/artists. As a taxpayer, I’m glad that MPD is working to protect property owners and public property from this kind of crime. We should be able to have nice things in this city.

        • an excellent point! I am paying the $450 to get my car cleaned, which will only reinforce the inaccurate belief that the insecure morons who tag our city only target abandoned property.

          • Very good points!
            I support graffiti artists, but those who strive to beautify and inspire free thought in the public. However, I also respect people’s right to not have their stuff messed up.
            I don’t see the problem with tags and graf on blighted or abandoned buildings like Eric said. They’re eyesores to begin with and graf can either draw attention to its state of disrepair, hopefully inspiring others to do something with it rather than leaving it there to rot, or it can beautify what was once seen as an eyesore. An example would be those few buildings in Shaw that were abandoned and filled with crackheads and prostitutes who would sneak in through the boarded up windows. A resident secured the boards and painted them to look like old Parisian store fronts (I’m sure PoP has a post somewhere about the “Bienvenue a Shaw” building). He did that without permission from the owners or anyone really, so..ya know…graffiti.

      • “in my opinion tagging does a service by pointing out underused or abandoned places”

        Someone should tag your forehead, then.

        • Ha, ur schmart, wish I could think of vapid comments like that instead of a reasoned argument.

        • I lowered myself to make a point. Read my other comments on this thread for my reasoned responses.

          And thanks. I thought it was pretty clever, too!

          • you tend to have pretty lowly insulting comments actually.

          • mostly about commas, though… and you missed one, maybe two, Anonymous.

            And if you did us all the courtesy of actually coming up with a “handle”, then we could all pass judgment on your past comments, too.

        • + GAZILLION

      • You must not live in Columbia Heights, Eric. I see graffiti EVERYWHERE, and there are very few derelict buildings left. It goes up, the city or private owners remove it, and then it eventually goes up again. Over, and over, and over. It never stops, and I have yet to see ANY with even a hint of artistic merit. The only reason that the area is not perpetually covered in graffiti is because of vigilant efforts to remove it. It’s just a bunch of scrawled, barely readable letters on other people’s property, that they work hard to paint and maintain.

      • Yeah, I just love the MS13 and other gang tags I see all over the bike paths I ride. Really adds to the boring trees, sidewalks and signs.

      • Well you know what they say about opinions … just like a$$holes, everybody’s got one. Fortunately, for matters of criminality, we have the law to avoid the problem of differing opinions.

    • “Of course shootings should be a top priority. But that doesn’t mean the police should simply ignore all other crimes. Graffiti creates an enormous amount of work, expense and aggravation for both private property owners and the city.”
      My thoughts exactly! Well said, NoLongerNewtoCH. I especially hate the mindless scrawlings on public property; lampposts, mailboxes, electrical junction boxes, traffic signs, etc. Makes the city look ugly and dirty.

  • Also, “…we can take additional steps to combat this disorder.” WTF? Is this a new pandemic or genetic disorder now?

  • Blackbyrd Warehouse keeps Shephard Fairey’s street posters = cool, ULTRA gets arrested = props to the cops. A hipster dilemma by PoP.

    • was the fairey piece put up illegally? you sure?

      • Why is it that so many idiots posting here can’t tell the difference between something painted on property with permission of the property’s owner and something done without the owner’s permission? I just hope they are better at delineating between consensual sex and rape.

      • When has Fairey asked permission? Maybe in the alley behind Irvine for his show, but no where else that I know.

  • some f_cking moron spray painted his initials on the hood of my new car in Ledroit Park a week ago – it’s going to cost $450 to remove. I don’t care what type of statement these vandals are trying to make they all deserve jail time. You want to create graffiti art create it on something you own. Full stop.

  • I love this blog because on any given day you have no idea whether a post will draw the zealotry from anti-establishment, F** the police contingent or if you will raise the ire of the “respect the authority at all costs” crowd.

    It seems they switch off and are never present on the same day. Or they are the same people and they just have multiple personality disorder.

  • I’d say there can be a difference.
    I really love seeing old, decrepit, abandoned buildings covered in murals but I detest the crappy tags KGB and the like slap up on any space they can. A building in my neighborhood (commercial first floor under renovation, residents still in upper floors)keeps getting tagged and they keep painting over it. I’ve also seen houses in Georgetown tagged (not including the one on P Street that has an awesome DC mini-mural).I’d be royally pissed if someone tagged my building & would probably want them arrested, but if someone slapped up a good stencil or even a great tag on the side in the alley I’d probably dig it.
    As far as public spaces, I think buses and metro tagging is stupid. Generally I like the stuff on whatever those weird metal boxes that stick up out of the sidewalk are (electrical something I assume). I’ve seen some crappy tags on them, but they don’t offend me. I’ve also seen some really sick posters on them and really like the 51st State stencils.

    Basically I think it boils down to a mix of skill and intent. If the person doing the tagging is doing so to mark their territory, brag, or destroy property just to destroy property, it’s likely to be of no artistic value and very ill received. If you have someone who’s trying to create something of visual interest or beauty and chooses to put it in a public place to benefit the public, I think you’ll find people tend to be more receptive. Same goes for political/informational intent a la Shepard Fairey. The latter is probably also less likely do do so on someone’s house or a store front without consent but will probably take blighted or abandoned properties as fair game (IMO, why shouldn’t they? Its an eyesore as it is & I’d rather have it covered in art!)

    • Let’s not mix up real graffiti art, like the murals cottontails mentioned, with tagging. Most graffiti art (like most other art) is pretty lame, but it can occasionally be good, so I’ll give the artist the benefit of the doubt. Tagging, on the other hand, always sucks. ALWAYS. The tagger’s intention ruins it. They aren’t trying to create something of beauty, they’re trying to force their brand on you. It’s just bullying in graphic format.

    • Do you honestly not get why this is completely irrelevant and unworkable? I mean, didn’t we all take the profound “what is art?” seminar at some point and realize that attempting to draw a line on some objective criteria based on the content is impossible? “Skill and intent?” “of no artistic value?” You’re making content-based distinctions that are completely subjective. The law doesn’t — and shouldn’t — work that way. The only thing that matters is objective: did the property owner consent? If not, then it’s a crime.

  • I once saw a group of young graffiti “artists” spray painting the windows of cars on Irving Street. They sprayed a line on my neighbor’s brand new VW, across the glass and sheetmetal, and I chased them down the street (this is back when I lived on Irving). I couldn’t catch up with them but hopefully I freaked them out a bit and saved a few other cars on the block from being vandalized. Sadly, having her car spray painted was one of the final straws for my neighbor, an older, African American woman and lontime resident, who ended up moving to the ‘burbs.

  • I wish MPD would release more info about the arrest. Was ULTRA caught in the act? It’s not like he’s an unknown face He’s created some pretty solid work I know it’s illegal, but lauding an arrest as something special when it boils down to throwing cuffs on a guy who was publicly promoting his work doesn’t make me applaud the MPD. Not that this wasn’t a legit arrest, but I want more info.

    • +1 – I need to know more about this story for it to make sense, and PoP’s email below just confuses me even more!

  • It seems like he does solid work. Too bad he also resorts to unwanted, uncreative tagging. For the latter, I’m glad he was arrested.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    From an email:

    “According to DCMPD press release on Prince of Petworth, cops arrested Asad ULTRA Walker on Sunday morning. They boasted of the arrest of “a major player in DC’s tagging/graffiti subculture.”

    But according to Walker’s web site — which appears to be confirmed by DC Public Library’s site — he was scheduled to give a workshop for kids tomorrow on graffitti lettering. Wow. Unconfirmed but suggested is that the workshop was part of a series sponsored in part by the MPD.


    From Asad’s web site:

    DC Public Libraries Summer Reading Program: Graffiti Lettering
    WhenThu, July 14, 4:30pm – 6:00pm
    WhereSoutheast Library 403 7th St. S.E. Washington, DC 20003 (map)
    DescriptionOur summer series of art workshops with DC Public Library continues with Asad ULTRA Walker’s Graffiti Lettering workshops as a part of the library’s summer reading program “You Are Here.” Learn graffiti letter writing and its relationship to the history of fonts. Develop your own graffiti style, focusing on layout and color. Learn about graffiti history in DC and throughout the world, and about graphic design as a career. Ages 12 – 19.

    • WAIT a minute…….

      We now have city programs to teach kids to develop their “own graffitti style”?!?!

      I’ve lived here all my life and have never heard anything more ridiculous. I’m always the first to defend the city and promote all it has to offer, but hearing stuff like this makes me think the city really has gone batshit.

      Thanks for the links – I can’t wait to dig deeper into this bullshit!

  • Will he ever actually go to prison? Probably a fine, probation, maybe light jail time if he’s unlucky.

  • i’d like to point out that in this country you are innocent until proven guilty. and my graf name is ULTRA.

  • In almost every thread about a criminal act, someone chimes in with the argument that MPD should adopt the “broken windows” theory of policing – ala NYC in the 90s – where people are written up and/or arrested for even small offenses under the theory that small crimes lead to bigger crimes. Well, here’s an example of broken windows in action. I guess it loses some of its luster in practice, particularly when it’s not being applied to young black males from Southeast.

    • I dunno. Seems like everyone is pretty gung-ho about this guy (and other graffiti ‘artists’) spending time in jail or doing community service.

      Are they white? Black? Latino? I really don’t care. If they’re guilty, then they should be punished. I’m in full support of the “broken window” theory, even if it is applied to some snot-nose from Glover Park or wherever.

      (That last was a theoretical reference, not meant to describe any specific person here, so please don’t hit me with, “So-and-so’s not even from Glover Park, he’s from Whitey-town!”).

      • My point is that for most people, the stepped up law enforcement that’s part of a broken windows approach is a consequence that other people will be bearing. That’s why they can support it. They envision the police writing up the crew of kids drinking a 40 in the park; not writing up the urban homesteader drinking a glass of wine on his or her porch. Given the dynamics of DC, the only way that kind of approach can work is if everybody gets hassled, not just the people who “look” like they are up to no good (and of course, we all “know” who looks like their up to no good). I suspect that’s not a price many people are willing to bear.

        • I see what you mean, and I do think everybody should get hassled equally, meaning that the laws should get applied evenly. I may have a more generous notion of what people who support the “broken windows” theory will expect and tolerate, though. You can’t dump your old couch in the alley, no matter who you are. Seems reasonable.

          Aside: Coming from New Orleans, I was literally stunned to find out you can’t legally enjoy a glass of wine on your own front porch in this town. To me, that’s just flat out stupid (and not the same thing as drinking in a public park or on the street corner). That law should change, IMO.

  • I have a hard time believing ULTRA and MAR5 are the same person. Completely different styles.

  • Now I know who’s responsible for the “KGB” and “MAR5” tags blighting the security shutters on the Georgia Avenue corner store near where I live.

    I don’t understand taggers’ sense of entitlement. If it doesn’t belong to you, leave it alone.

  • Next, get Buck Tooth!

    • I want to hate him, but I find the tag itself kind of clever.

      • I would never have known it was supposed to be “Buck Tooth” if it hadn’t come up the other week on this blog. Before that, all I could think was that maybe someone was protesting the cost of dental care.

    • And how about NERO????????????????

      That asshole has had more tags than anyone recently!

  • maybe i should be more plain: no one has proven that i am MAR5 and to comment otherwise is irresponsible of MPD. the police may ALLEGE that, but it can’t be proven, because its just not true. i’m sorry but its “innocent until proven guilty”.

    i have taught classes w gang outreach, inside dc jail and w active graf writers. i have never advocated illegal graffiti to a youth. honestly though, how many teenagers are going to show up for a pottery class? ask any of my students, i have always promoted the creation of legal public art. they respect me because i grew up in the streets and correctional institutions of dc and still i try to create beauty wherever i go. and i care deeply for these kids. how many of you would sit in the lobby of dc jail for 2 days to reach out to 18 year olds locked up for murder for one or two hours? the reason i got into graf was the lack of art instruction. every minute i’m with these kids theyre learning and not running around unsupervised. im really sorry that anything i did could negatively impact their learning.

    • Hi Asad, This is the teacher you worked with at dc jail. Although I no longer work there, I just want to reiterate the massive impact you had on those kids. They were incredibly inspired by your story and adored your art. I’m a big fan of your art and your educational mission. Best of luck with the MPD situation.

  • you yuppie scums need to fucking get ur head out of ur asses. graf is urban it belongs in the street. ur all being deceived. dc public works has a 100 million dollar a year budget to clean graffiti from the city. i could clean every single piece of graffiti with 1/1000th of this budget in a matter of weeks. you lame ass yuppies move to our neighborhoods, raise our rent, gentrify our areas and bitch about something you knew you were getting into. graf is a part of every single city in the whole entire world. if you dont like it go back to ur suburb and make peace there. no matter how many graf writers you continue to catch you will never help to put a stop to it. mars and ultra name will live on even behind bars as his peers will make sure his name lives on. i also find it funny how an industry so large and respectable by your terms, advertising, has borrowed just about every aspect from what we know as graffiti. anyways u people are so kazy you cant control your own properties with minimal elbow grease and some denatured alcohol. a side note while mars was being arrested countless innocent people were bein robbed and beaten in ALL corners of this wonderful city. like i stated earlier if you dont like it then do something about it your damn self and quit sitting on ur asses bitching doing nothing. graf is here to stay. if ur one to judge something for its artistic value you should be able to back it up and do something better anyways. until then all the writers will continue to piss you off.

    • feel better now?

    • Who says advertising is respectable? I hate that shit too. But at least most ads are not slapped onto buildings without the building owner’s permission.

    • I guarantee you that some bitter, bespectacled, skinny white guy in short sleeves and a tie wrote this.

    • Not sure if you travel much, but there are many cities where graffitti is NOT everywhere – is MUCH better – and doesn’t say FU to everyone who has to deal with it.

  • ultra has done great work in getting graffiti off the streets and onto legal/city promoted areas. Seems a little fishy to give a artist grant to do legal work, then arrest him for illegal stuff. Hopefully it all works out and asad can go back to helping deal with problems within the community head on not just snarking about it the internet.

  • I have been to hundreds of cities throughout the world. I have been to every continent besides Antarctica. Never have I been to city where grafitti wasn’t present. You people love people like banksy and other famous “street artists”, but its all illegal graffiti. By saying you like one, but detest the other you are only being a hypocrite. No I do not wear short sleeves with ties. No I am not bitter. No I am not old and NO I am not white. If anything you are the bitter ones because you seem to care so much about combatting the DC graffiti issue.

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