BYU staff clean paint off of the cougar statue located near LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Brandon Judd, Deseret News

PROVO — Four University of Utah students have been charged with criminal mischief after allegedly vandalizing the cougar statue outside LaVell Edwards Stadium on Sept. 9, the morning of the BYU-Utah football game.

The students, Jackson Horspool, 18; Amy Newman, 19; Lane Hogan, 18; and Beu Maimer, 21; who live in Salt Lake City, allegedly spray-painted red “U” logos, “Go Utes” and a white smiley face on the cougar, then returned to the scene minutes later to “check out their work” and take photos, according to a BYU police report.

Police say the four suspects had red paint on their hands when they were stopped by officers. An officer reported smelling smell spray paint in the car and said he found two red spray cans, one white spray can, two cloth respirators and a cardboard U of U stencil.

The suspects admitted to spray-painting the cougar, according to police.

A BYU student reported the incident to police at 4:54 a.m. Police responded and spotted the suspects’ car, a blue Volkswagen Beetle with Utah license plates and a University of Utah sticker in the back window. Police pulled the car over on the corner of Canyon Road and University Parkway.

The car had been parked at the Super 8 motel near the stadium at the time of the incident, according to the police report.

The suspects returned to their car allegedly saying, “We did it!” They decided to return to the scene to take photos.

“We had a pretty good description of the vehicle,” said Provo Police Lt. Steven Messick. “The fact that they didn’t just drive away and that the vehicle was still in the area, that definitely helped us.”

Later that morning, BYU maintenance crews removed the paint from the cougar statue.

The four students have been charged with criminal mischief, a class B misdemeanor, according to the Provo City Justice Court.

For years, BYU has tried to prevent acts of vandalism on campus the week of the BYU-Utah football game by wrapping statues in Visqueen, which was not used by the BYU grounds crew this year.

“I think the reasoning is we haven’t been having any problems,” Lt. Messick said. “We haven’t done it every time. I don’t know for sure, but the rivalry seemed to be a little more respectful. I think they probably thought, ‘We probably don’t need it.’”

Will measures be taken in the future by the BYU grounds crew to prevent vandalism during Rivalry Week?

“Obviously, they’re going to look at it and determine whether they feel like it’s necessary or if it was an isolated enough incident,” Lt. Messick said. “They’ll have to make that determination.”