Bloomington man says vandalism of Washington Monument was act of desperation
A Bloomington man made headlines last month for painting on the Washington Monument. Now he says he’s dying on the streets of D.C., waiting for sentencing.
Forty-four-year-old Shelbyville native Shaun Ray Deaton sleeps on a bench in front of the District of Columbia Federal Court building, a block-and-a-half from his lawyer’s office.
He said he’s been homeless since he left Bloomington in September and unable to find shelter since he was released from jail. Deaton said the path that led him to the Washington Monument was one of desperation, and his actions were a last-chance appeal for help to receive healthcare for a fatal illness.
“Die quietly out of the way is kind of [what] I've heard from almost everyone,” Deaton said. “If you're nothing and have no power and no connections, no money, then you have to get attention somehow.”
In 2010, Deaton was pursuing a PhD at IU in informatics when he was diagnosed with terminal Crohn’s disease.
“I was barely making it, barely sleeping,” Deaton said. “I could either get my PhD and die in the process or leave and try to live.”
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Despite suffering from conditions that regularly landed him in the hospital and left him unable to sustain a fulltime job and a PTSD diagnosis, Deaton was unable to receive disability benefits from the state.
He filed a civil rights complaint to the Indiana Department of Justice in August, which was also denied.
Deaton plead guilty Monday to destruction of government property, and the court is considering 4-to-10 months incarceration and a fine between $2,000 and $20,000. The National Park Service tweeted that the paint was removed within a day of the incident. Deaton has no prior offenses.
A week of sunlight will also help return the monument to its usual impressive state. Thanks to our expert team for their hard work.— National Mall NPS (@NationalMallNPS) September 21, 2022
The person responsible was arrested by the United States Park Police.#WashingtonMonument #NationalMall pic.twitter.com/Y40CRbqYW1
A status hearing is set for Dec. 1, although he isn’t sure he’ll live to see it. Deaton returned to the emergency room Saturday and was on the street the same night. Because D.C. shelters give priority to returning clients, he has been unable to find a bed.
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Deaton said he’s willing to accept punishment for his actions but not ready to admit remorse.
“They really want me to be remorseful for what I did. I said, ‘Make me remorseful. Show me what I did was actually wrong’,” Deaton said. “I'd like to, but it just shows that they didn't care before to help me and don't care now.”