A 23-year-old Sonora man turned himself in to law enforcement Tuesday evening after reportedly admitting to officers he tagged at least a dozen locations throughout downtown Sonora with red, gang-related spray-paint graffiti on April 22.
The graffiti featured variations on the number 14 on numerous downtown businesses and public spaces.
The man told police he tagged the buildings while he was drunk.
The iconography, which also included a red “Huelga Bird” (a symbol of the United Farm Workers of America, an agricultural workers labor union), is associated with the Mexican and Latin American Norteños.
The Sonora Police Department did not believe the man had a credible gang affiliation.
The graffiti stretched from the Terzich parking structure on North Washington Street to the intersection of Mono Way and Hospital Road.
The tagged sites included a large double-tag on the brick side wall of Downtown Shoes at 4 S. Washington St.; on the historic marble paving stones in Courthouse Square; on the windows of the Tuolumne County Superior Court on North Washington Street; underneath a window on Gold Rush Meats building at the corner of Stewart and Jackson streets; on the doorway to Suarez-Stone Tax Service at 38 S. Stewart St.; on the first floor of the Terzich parking structure on North Washington Street; on a retaining wall along Mono Way just east of the intersection with Hospital Road and before Sanguinetti Road; at 38 William St.; at Gold Country Gas Station, Zane’s Iron Horse Lounge and the Intake Bar and Grill on South Washington Street and on the white wall of Sonora Florist & Gifts on Bradford Street.
The graffiti was first reported to the police on Monday night, April 22, with additional reports being catalogued throughout the next day.
The suspect was identified by a Sonora Police officer who reviewed video surveillance and recognized him from prior contacts, Sonora Police Department dispatcher Krishna Livingston said.
The police department acquired footage from a transit camera that covers Courthouse Square, a camera from Zane’s Iron Horse Lounge and from the Tuolumne County Superior Court, Livingston said.
Livingston said the man was not wearing a facial covering during the tagging which allowed him to be identified.
Daniel Alan Nichols, 23, who is identified on Tuolumne County Jail booking logs as a student, was booked on suspicion of felony vandalism following his arrest at the Sonora Police Department on S. Green Street.
Nichols’s bail was set at $15,000. As of Wednesday afternoon, he remained in the custody of the Tuolumne County Jail.
The Sonora Police Department Facebook page posted a booking photo of Nichols prior to his arrest, seeking the public’s help in locating him.
In a Facebook comment credited to Daniel Nichols, he said his alcohol dependence and the graffitti meant he could not participate in his high school graduation in June.
“I want to say I apologize to the community for my actions,” Nichols wrote. “I am turning myself in tonight and whatever I get I deserve I'm just gonna keep god in my prayers… I just need help.”
According to Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office logs, Nichols turned himself in to the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office in Oct. 2017 for failure to appear on a misdemeanor charge, a misdemeanor probation violation and disorderly conduct.
According to a Sonora Police Department press release, Nichols, then 18, was arrested in November 2013 after he pulled a knife on the manager of a South Washington Street grocery store who confronted him about stealing four candy bars valuing $3.94.