RVA Street Art site closes after assault hospitalizes security guard

Posted at 10:47 PM, Nov 25, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -The 5.5 acre former GRTC bus depot along the 2500 block of West Cary St.  that became the second RVA Street Art site after a recent festival is now closed as the result of a weekend attack on a security officer, an organizer of the festival said.

On Saturday night, several suspects allegedly assaulted a security guard, which left him hospitalized, festival organizers Ed Trask and Jon Baliles said.

The crime log distributed by Richmond Police on Monday listed the incident as an aggravated assault in which a “male reported an unknown person (s) assaulted him,” at 11:01 p.m. Saturday night.

Multiple published accounts throughout the day said that criminals also trespassed and engaged in the destruction of GRTC property.

There was no listed report of vandalism on the crime log. On Tuesday morning, Richmond Police confirmed they had not yet received reports of vandalism at the site.

Trask said that the case has been assigned to the Richmond Police Major Crimes Division. He said the guard was in uniform, but not armed.

“At one point I think GRTC might have thought it had something to do with people who were tagging on the walls–were thinking it might have been gang related– so I immediately went out with a bunch of people to look, to see what had been [put] up,” Trask explained over the phone.

“There were no new tags…none of the tags were gang-related or any serious crude fights or anything of that nature,” Trask said. “I don’t know, I have a feeling that he got jumped, he got mugged.”

The security guard was just released Monday. “That’s the best thing,” Trask said.

A fundraiser was started Tuesday to help security guard Jack Newsom pay for medical expenses. If you wish to donate, you can find the link here.

“Initially the first thing I think about is the health of the security guard, but second I want to say we had a pretty good thing going there as far as a new sense of optimism, a new sense of a creative space for the community.”

“We had a ridiculous amount of hard work that went into doing that,” Trask lamented, “so for me the idea that this incident could kinda ruin that sucks.”

This isn’t the first the site has closed, though the organizers “totally shut it down for the time being.”

[PHOTOS: RVA Street Art Festival rejuvenates old bus depot]

The site initially closed after the September festival, due to a concern over liability. Then GRTC administrators opened the spot to pedestrian traffic only. The public was allowed in from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. seven days a week.

It’s not yet clear, and we will update when there is more information, if a security guard usually manned the space regardless of the festival. It appears that is the case if the spot was closed to traffic by dark, and the guard was attacked while leaving work at 11:00 p.m.

Trask said that there have been “a few small acts of vandalism,” and that those were “happening before” the festival. GRTC vacated the spot for a new corporate headquarters across the river, in 2010.

The spot was originally to be sold to the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority for $5.4 million, according to published articles, but the city never approved the sale.

[READ: Acts of kindness light up the long-dark Richmond bus depot]

The full statement released on Facebook by the festival organizers is below.

“It is with a mixture of sadness and outrage that we have to notify the public that the RVA Street Art Festival site has been closed to the public. Access is prohibited and no events or tours will be allowed.

On Saturday night, several suspects trespassed on the property and engaged in the destruction of GRTC property and criminally assaulted the security guard which has left him hospitalized. The case has been assigned to the Richmond Police Major Crimes Division.

We are outraged that such cowardly actions have led to the closing of the site and understand GRTC’s decision. It was our goal to revitalize the area and GRTC property using creativity and art with the hope of changing the expectation of its use as a future neighborhood asset. We did not intend for the actions of a few criminals resorting to such horrible violent behavior to negate the hard work and many hours that GRTC, ourselves, the great artists, and countless others put in to rejuvenating this historically vital spot.

We do not believe that the nature of the art used for this revitalization is by any means indicative of violent criminal behavior. The subject of highest importance now is the well being of the gentleman assaulted and hopes for his speedy recovery; our thoughts and prayers are with his family. We will work with GRTC to reevaluate the use of the property in the future but for the time being the site will remain closed.”