Bail set at $20K for three Chehalis 'Friendship Fence' vandalism suspects 


Bail is set at $20,000 for each of the three suspects accused of defacing the “Friendship Fence” in Chehalis on Sunday. 

“Given the allegations here and the nature of these charges, I find that this is a very serious threat to community safety,” Judge James Lawler said of the allegations during a preliminary hearing for one of the suspects on Monday. 

While the prosecution asked for bail to be set at $10,000 for each suspect due to the lack of criminal history on any of their records, Lawler said the community safety risk warranted a higher bail. 

Arraignment hearings are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 29. 

The three suspects, identified as Frank John B. Bagley II, 40, of Burien, Matthew A. Clement, 33, of Centralia, and Gabriel R. Smith-Nilsen, 25, of Driggs, Idaho, were arrested in Centralia early Sunday morning after a neighbor saw them defacing the Friendship Fence in Chehalis and followed them as they fled in a dark-colored Subaru station wagon. 

They each face one count of second-degree malicious mischief and one count of hate crime. Each charge is a class C felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. 

While Chehalis residents were able to clean the black paint off of the fence before it could dry, the Chehalis Police Department determined that damage to the fence exceeded $1,500. 

“Over 10 sections of the fence were damaged. The entire fence will have to be repainted,” the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office states in charging documents filed Monday afternoon. 

The prosecutor’s office also noted the fence is “obviously a representation of the rainbow support for the LGBTQ community” and  “has been a target of vandalism on several other occasions.” 

Clement was reportedly driving and Bagley and Smith-Nilsen were passengers in the Subaru when officers with the Centralia Police Department pulled them over early Sunday morning, according to court documents. 

After the neighbor, Norman Lynn, confirmed the three suspects in the vehicle were the same people he saw defacing the fence, Clement allegedly said, “We’re all involved in it, clearly we are,” according to court documents. 

Officers who searched the vehicle after obtaining a search warrant reportedly found a still-wet gallon of black paint inside a white trash bag, two “squirt-type water sprayers which had black paint on them,” a black stocking cap, a black ski mask, a pair of gloves and two black neck gaiters. 

A handheld radio set to the city’s dispatch radio frequency was found inside the vehicle’s glovebox. 

Officers also found a stencil “covered in multicolored paint and had the words ‘Patriotfront’ as the cutout for the sign,” as well as a blue bag containing “several pieces of White Lives Matter and literature and propaganda stickers” inside the vehicle, according to court documents. 

Bagley, who goes by the alias “Chad WA,” is a known neo-Nazi organizer for the White Lives Matter campaign and a former member of the Patriot Front, a white supremacist and neo-fascist hate group, according to online watchdog group WA Nazi Watch. 

Bagley is also allegedly connected to the theft of 75 Pride flags in Burien in 2022.

Clement, also known as “Jack WA,” is a known member of the Patriot Front who was allegedly connected to the October 2021 destruction of the “‘Respect & Love Olympia” mural in Olympia, according to Unicorn Riot. Two members of the Patriot Front ultimately faced misdemeanor charges for the vandalism.

The Chronicle was unable to find publicly available information online about Smith-Nilsen’s background as of Monday afternoon. 

Neighbor gives chase

The Chehalis Police Department received a call at 12:08 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 25, from Lynn reporting three subjects “wearing all black and ski masks” were spray painting the Friendship Fence in the 600 block of Northwest Pennsylvania Avenue. 

“I was coming home and I pulled up to the stop sign on Pennsylvania, and then my headlights were striking the fence,” Lynn recalled to a Chronicle reporter on Monday. 

Lynn turned on his high beams to let three suspects know he was there, took out his phone to call 911, then pulled over in front of the house. 

“I yelled at them, and then they picked up a bunch of stuff they had been using, and they ran around into the alley behind the house,” Lynn said. 

Lynn pulled his van around to follow them and saw them “hiding” behind the house. 

“There’s a little alcove and they were just standing there against the fence. And we looked at each other for a little bit,” he said. 

The suspects then reportedly fled on foot onto Northwest Quincy Place, got into a dark-colored station wagon and began to flee the area. 

Lynn, who had been keeping an eye on the suspects from his van, decided to keep following them as they drove away. 

“I wanted to get their license plate number,” he said. 

As an employee at Green Hill School, Lynn said he has seen “a lot of behavior” like that shown by the suspects. 

“It just irritates me that people spread hate. I love my neighborhood and I just want to be safe,” Lynn said. 

The suspects drove through the neighborhood at a high rate of speed going toward Interstate 5, Lynn reported. They ultimately ran a red light at  Louisiana Avenue and got onto northbound Interstate 5 heading into Centralia. 

“I continued to follow them on I-5. And my van, the high speed is 90. I was pegging it,” Lynn said. 

The suspects turned their vehicle’s lights off while they were on the freeway, Lynn said, “but I saw the brake lights when they were headed up to the ramp, so I pulled after them.” 

The suspects, followed by Lynn, got off of I-5 at Exit 81 in Centralia and made several quick turns before getting onto Elm Street toward Cooks Hill. 

“I was on the phone the whole time with 911,” Lynn said. 

Officers with the Centralia Police Department were able to stop the suspects’ vehicle as they were trying to get onto southbound I-5 at 12:38 a.m. on Feb. 25, according to police call logs.  

All three suspects were arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail just after 1 a.m. on Feb. 25 for second-degree malicious mischief, according to jail records.  

It’s not the first time the fence has been targeted. 

The fence was last vandalized along with three other LGBTQ+-associated sites in June 2023.