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  • Randy Pench /

    A crowd watches firefighters pull a man's body up to a 17th-floor balcony Monday on a high-rise at 12th and K streets. Markers, spray paint and an etching tool indicated the man was intending to leave graffiti behind. He had lowered himself using a rope left behind by window washers. Police say the rope tightened around his chest, cutting off his breathing.

  • Randy Pench /

    Sacramento firefighters recover a man's body Monday from the 16th-floor level of a high-rise at 12th and K Street. A rope had constricted his breathing.

Man dies hanging from building in Sacramento

Published: Tuesday, Apr. 2, 2013 - 12:30 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2013 - 6:36 am

In the span of 15 days, Sacramento authorities have reported the deaths of two men from apparent graffiti attempts at elevated heights.

The latest was discovered Monday morning after employees at a high-rise at 1201 K St. reported seeing a body hanging from rope outside the 16th floor.

Sacramento police spokeswoman Michele Gigante said the victim apparently died accidentally while trying to vandalize the building's exterior.

On March 16, a convicted tagger, Andre Petkov, 22, of North Highlands, was discovered by a street sweeper after apparently falling from the Interstate 80 bridge east of Winters Street.

Petkov had been arrested and convicted in 2009 for vandalism in the Sacramento and Roseville areas and was a member of the Sacramento Graffiti Killers.

On Monday, Gigante said the deaths of the two apparent taggers "look like they are completely independent issues."

The man who died at the high-rise was not identified by authorities Monday pending notification of his relatives.

Authorities said gravity played a role in both deaths.

Petkov fell to his death from the overpass.

Battalion Chief Craig Wiedenhoeft, of the Sacramento Fire Department, said the man they removed Monday accidentally asphyxiated himself.

Wiedenhoeft said the rope that looped around his chest and legs had constricted him. "He got pulled into a fetal position when the rope cinched up on him," he said.

It wasn't known Monday how the man reached the top of the high-rise, known locally as the "Ban Roll-on building."

According to the Wiedenhoeft, the man used an antiquated mountaineering technique to begin his descent. He used a rope left by window washers to descend to a landing on the 17th floor. Then, after retying the rope, he descended to the 16th floor, Wiedenhoeft said.

Local climbing experts said the "classic rappel" technique is seldom practiced. It uses friction from the rope against the body at various points to slow the descent.

"It's not used much anymore. There is equipment that is a lot more efficient, so nobody really does it," said Adam Elfstrand, general manager Granite Arch Climbing Center in Rancho Cordova.

At Sacramento Pipeworks climbing gym in downtown Sacramento, climber Jason Bove described the technique as "unorthodox" and "not recommended."

The victim was noticed at 7:50 a.m., and firefighters recovered the body.

Gigante said markers, glass etching tools that could be used to deface glass, and spray paint were found at the scene.

On Monday, Gigante said police have no evidence to suggest the deaths of the two men are related. She described them as a coincidence.

"It just so happens that we had these two deaths within the same month," she said.

The Sacramento Police Department used to have a graffiti unit that focused on identifying gang markings. It was disbanded because of the budget crisis.

In 2009, the Roseville Police Department went undercover to bust the group calling itself the Sacramento Graffiti Killers.

"That was their life – tagging," said Officer Ryan Bal. "Whatever else they did, was just to pass the time until they could get tagging."

He said at that time taggers would post pictures of their work on Myspace. He and another officer interacted with them on Myspace until they finally met face-to-face.

He said they idolized well-known graffiti artists, especially those tagging prominent locations. "It's all about visibility," he said. "It's all about getting as many people to see it as possible.

"They all think of themselves as artists. They do have artistic ability, but what they are doing is not art," Bal said. "Artists don't vandalize other people's property."

He said the effort to gain notoriety has been deadly.

"We've had two deaths now in the area," Bal said. "They are putting themselves at risk to get their name out there." Call The Bee's Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269. Follow him on Twitter @newsfletch.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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