A man has been arrested for vandalizing the Lincoln Memorial with a penny, National Park officials and police say.
According to a police report, 21-year-old Nurtilek Bakirov of Kyrgyzstan is accused of vandalizing the memorial at around 1:10 p.m. on Sept. 19, reports WRC. A United States Park Police officer saw Bakirov using a penny to scratch the words "HYPT MAEK" into the fifth pillar.
The officer reportedly asked Bakirov what he was doing, to which the student replied, "Sorry," and tried to walk away. The officer ordered him to stop twice, which Bakirov did after the second order. The student then apologized and said he didn't know his actions weren't allowed.
"Am I in trouble for doing this?" he asked.
Bakirov has been charged with felony destruction of property and, according to WTOP, he could face up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Justine Ebllo, architectural conservator for National Mall and Memorial Parks, said that although the markings were small (several inches across), they were etched into a stone pillar. This will make them more difficult to repair than damage to the surface caused by paint.
Documents filed in D.C. Superior Court state that the damage can't be fully repaired but can be treated in a process that would cost about $2,000, according to The Washington Post. Conservators are currently evaluating the damage and determining the best course of action.
"This does represent permanent damage to the historic fabric of the memorial. That is troubling and presents its own challenges," said Bello, according to WTOP.
The Washington Post reported that Bakirov is a student in the Washington, D.C., area, said Sgt. Anna Rose, a Park Police spokeswoman. His home country of Kyrgyzstan, also known as the Kyrgyz Republic, is located in Central Asia and was formerly a part of the Soviet Union, according to WTOP.
A spokesman form the U.S. Attorney's Office said Bakirov appeared in D.C. Superior Court on Sept. 20 and was released on his own recognizance. A judge has ordered him to stay away from the memorial and he is expected back in court for a hearing on Nov. 1.
The Washington Post has reported that it is unclear what the etched words mean and that they are faint and hard to make out. The writing may be in Cyrillic script and may reference Bakirov's first name.
The Lincoln Memorial was also vandalized in August with red paint. However, Rose said that there is no indication that the August incident is related to the most current one.