A man from Las Vegas, Nevada admitted to vandalizing two billboards in El Paso, Texas by painting “cartel-style” threats and hanging mannequins from them.
According to Fox News Latino, Ryan Jean was arrested as he attempted to board a plane in El Paso. The man subsequently told police that he altered the billboards as a way to protest the drug war in the U.S.
Breitbart Texas reported on the billboards when they were first discovered on May 23.
One of the vandalized signs on highway I-10 said “Plata o Plomo,” which translates into “silver or lead.” Reports state that this message is usually meant as a threat to government officials from cartels in Mexico. Prior to Jean’s arrest the threat was perceived my many as a message that a cartel was prepared to use violence if police refused to cooperate with them.
A mannequin, dressed in a suit and tie, was found hanging from the sign via a noose.
A second vandalized billboard was subsequently discovered on the same highway. This one was originally a sign advertising a $5 million reward from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for turning in Rafael Caro Quintero, a drug lord.
“Dying for drugs,” was painted across the billboard. The DEA sign also sported a hanging mannequin, this one dressed in jeans.
Reports state that the billboards prompted numerous 9-11 calls from concerned citizens in the area.
According to KHOU, El Paso police issued a statement prior to Jean’s arrest that said, “This symbol has historically been used by Mexican drug cartels to threaten or intimidate Mexican citizens, business owners and government officials; however, we have never experienced this in El Paso.”
Jean was ultimately caught after investigators found his fingerprints on a plastic bag used to create the head of one of the mannequins, according to Fox News Latino.
He faces graffiti, criminal trespassing, and criminal mischief charges.
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate.