Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

November 1, 2012

Accused illicit tattooer arrested

TAHLEQUAH — A 23-year-old Tahlequah man was arrested after he admitted giving his underaged nephews permanent tattoos.

Rocky Wayne Gritts was taken into custody Tuesday by Cherokee County law enforcement officials at the Briggs residence where the incident took place.

Sometime between Oct. 19 and 23, Gritts gave his 10-year-old and 5-year-old relatives permanent tattoos while the boys were staying with their grandfather at the Briggs home.

According to an affidavit on the case, the 10-year-old boy received an immutable mark on the left hand between the thumb and forefinger, and another on his right hand between the thumb and forefinger. An injury about the size of a pencil eraser was also found on the boy’s forearm just below the elbow.

The 5-year-old received a similar tattoo on his left hand between the thumb and forefinger.

Gritts fled the scene when authorities arrived to question him Oct. 26, but was taken without incident Tuesday, said investigating Officer Mike Moore.

“I went armed with a search warrant and had backup. He had no means of escape,” he said. “[Gritts] stayed there all weekend. So I had a pretty good feeling that he would be there.”

During the search, a “sewing needle” wrapped with thread was found, along with methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, Moore said.

“We were looking for the inking items, but we also found the meth,” he said. “We’ve still got a few items we’re waiting on [before moving forward with the case.]”

The incident came to light when Tahlequah Public Schools Resource Officer Randy Jordan contacted authorities with the information. Published reports on the case indicated the tattoos were gang-related and represent accomplishment in a Mexican gang called the Surenos, which could not be confirmed by local authorities.

“Our source was the school resource officer,” said Moore. “That’s how he described them to us.”

Phone calls from the Daily Press to Jordan were not returned.

Gritts is facing two felony counts of child abuse by injury and could face additional charges when the necessary documentation is finalized, said Cherokee County District Attorney Brian Kuester.

“We don’t have all the reports in. This is a joint investigation between the sheriff’s office and the DA’s office, and we don’t have all the reports yet to make that final decision,” he said. “The investigation is complete, but we should have the bulk of the reports by early next week. Then we’ll have the prosecutor look at them and decide probably mid- to late next week.”

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