Airline pilot arrested for writing offensive graffiti at Tallahassee airport

By: Pat Mueller | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 17, 2020

An Endeavor Air pilot was arrested on nine counts of criminal mischief after he was caught on camera writing racial slurs and pro-Trump graffiti at Tallahassee International Airport. (Photo: Leon County Jail)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — An airline pilot from Perry has been arrested on nine counts of criminal mischief after he was allegedly caught on camera writing racial slurs at Tallahassee International Airport.

53-year-old James Dees bonded out of the Leon County Detention Facility around 1 p.m. Friday afternoon. Court records show he has his next appearance on Feb. 20.

The Tallahassee Police Airport unit first got reports about graffiti in the men's restrooms, an elevator near the front entrance and on some parked cars on December 23, 2018, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Over the next year, several instances of graffiti reading "#MAGA," "TRUMP4EVER," "Send them ALL back" and various racial slurs were found in stalls of the men's restrooms, the parking lot elevator and on cars in the parking lot of the airport.

Other graffiti in the men's restroom over that time period read "Impeachment is coming," "#RESIST" and "RESTORE decency."

The affidavit said police installed a surveillance camera in the elevator facing the parking lot in response to the reports of the graffiti. On December 14, 2019, more graffiti was found in view of the hidden surveillance camera. Police reviewed the footage to find a suspect.

Police records state that around the 4 p.m. mark on the surveillance video, a pilot entered the elevator, looked in the direction of the hidden camera and positioned himself in the corner closest to the camera. It appeared he wrote something on the wall, looked at it and began to mouth something as if he was reading.

Following that, it appeared on the surveillance video that several people in the elevator noticed the graffiti and commented on it, according to the affidavit.

Based on the video, police determined only the pilot appeared to be writing something in the elevator, the affidavit said. Police later identified him as Dees, who is a pilot with Endeavor Air, a subsidiary of Delta Airlines.

On January 7, 2020, officers saw Dees walking into the airport and approached him as he waited for his flight. Dees reportedly agreed to talk to police, and the officers started asking him about several graffiti incidents from the past year.

Once police mentioned the hidden camera in the elevator, Dees admitted that he had been writing the "#MAGA" and racist graffiti on the walls. At first, he said he only did it three or four times. Once he was shown photos, he admitted to writing graffiti at the airport more than 11 times from June 27, 2019 to December 14, 2019.

Dees told police he had been going through a "rough time" and had anger issues, the affidavit said. He was allowed to leave after admitting to writing the graffiti.

He was about to get on his flight, but then he decided he was not in the "right state of mind" to fly a plane. He approached police again and told them he is a "responsible person" and wanted to do whatever it took to put the incident behind him.

Dees then left the airport and went home, the affidavit said.

Police decided to charge Dees with nine counts of criminal mischief after reviewing the video evidence. The total damage from the graffiti was less than $200.

Endeavor sent WCTV the following statement on Friday:

“These actions in no way reflect the values of Endeavor Air and this individual is no longer employed by the airline.”

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