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Woman charged in vandalism at National Cathedral

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 10:41am

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Police in the nation's capital arrested a woman Monday in connection with the splattering of paint in two locations inside the National Cathedral, a Washington Metropolitan Police Department spokesman said.

Tian Jiamel, 58, was charged with defacing property. When officers arrested her, she had green paint on her clothes and shoes, and paint cans were found in three bags she had with her, according to a police report obtained by CNN.

The arrest came after splashes of paint turned up on other landmarks in Washington, including the Lincoln Memorial.

Officials said it was not clear whether the paint discovered Monday at the National Cathedral and on a statue outside the Smithsonian Castle was related to the incident last week at the Lincoln Memorial, though all three locations were marred with green paint.

The arrest of the woman was related only to the National Cathedral incidents; police could not say if the same person was also responsible for the vandalism at the other two sites. The police report said that her clothes were sent to a forensics team to determine if the paint on them matches the paint at the other monuments.

A fourth landmark in Washington -- Luther Place Memorial Church -- was also found with green paint last week, but police did not link that incident to the others.

Jack Reiffer, the parish administrator at the church, said the paint was splattered on a statue of the 16th century Protestant reformer Martin Luther.

White paint mixed with feces was also found splattered on the front of the church's organ, and up onto the organ pipes and the chairs where the choir sits. Some of the mixture also got on the floor.

At the cathedral, in Washington's Northwest quadrant, the paint was discovered splattered on an organ console and casework inside the historic Bethlehem Chapel, in the building's lower level. A spokesman said the paint was wet when it was discovered. Paint was also found in the Children's Chapel, in the cathedral's nave.

The cathedral, a popular tourist destination, was closed during a search Monday afternoon.

Five miles south, on the National Mall, green paint was discovered on the statue outside the Smithsonian Institution Building, known widely as the Castle. Linda St. Thomas, the Smithsonian Institution's chief spokeswoman, said the statue is of Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the federally administered group of museums.

St. Thomas said that the paint appeared similar to that found on the Lincoln Memorial and that the U.S. Park Police, which manage the National Mall, were determining whether the paint was the same.

It wasn't immediately clear when the paint discovered at the Smithsonian Castle was found. St. Thomas said security guards first noticed it on Sunday afternoon, while Park Police Sgt. Paul Brooks said it was first reported Friday.

Brooks said that his agency wasn't able to determine how old the paint was and that it could have been on the statue for "a while."

The incidents Monday came three days after the Lincoln Memorial was temporarily closed after green paint was discovered on the iconic Washington site. Vandals splashed the paint on the base of the statue of the 16th president overnight.

-- CNN's Pamela Brown, Athena Jones, Carol Cratty, Dan Merica and Jonathan Helman contributed to this report.

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