Vandalism at memorial like a 'punch in the gut' for soldier's family

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by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @Drewmikk

KING5.com

Posted on September 24, 2012 at 4:43 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 24 at 6:00 PM

RAINIER, Wash. -- Police are trying to find the people responsible for vandalizing a roadside memorial for a soldier killed in Iraq.

Sometime overnight Friday a vandal spray-painted over a picture along Highway 507 near Rainier honoring Sgt. Justin Norton. The 21-year-old Thurston county native was killed by an IED in Iraq in 2006.

In June 2011, on the fifth anniversary of his death, Norton’s younger brother and a friend painted a mural beneath a train trestle.

“People drive by it every day and salute it,” said Norton’s stepfather Gary Warnock, “Now they can’t do that.”

The vandals used black spray paint to give Norton fake glasses. The rest of his face was blacked out.

“They really don’t understand the ramifications of what they’ve done,” said Norton’s father, Jeff Norton.

Norton said the community of Rainier “adopted” the memorial as their own. The City of Rainier placed an American flag beneath the mural.

Saturday morning someone in the community painted over the graffiti out of respect for Justin Norton.

Police are looking into the vandalism as potential malicious mischief.

Norton’s father said he wants the responsible party to know what they did was not funny.

“I think in time, whoever did this, it’s going to wear on them. It’s going to eat at them,” said Jeff Norton.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Thurston County Crimestoppers, 360-493-2222.
 

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