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Stolen artifacts from Martin Luther King Jr. monument in Denver recovered; suspects sought

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Posted at 1:27 PM, Feb 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-28 01:28:25-05

DENVER — Artifacts stolen from the Martin Luther King Jr. monument and a memorial fountain in Denver’s City Park have been recovered, according to police and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission.

Police are now looking for two suspects who they say were involved with the MLK monument theft and the theft of seven bronze pieces from the Joseph Addison Thatcher Memorial fountain, also located in City Park.

A bronze panel that depicted Black Americans who fought in U.S. wars and two decorative emblems that depict an angel stolen from the MLK monument were recovered from a scrap metal yard Friday, the commission told Denver7. Police said the large panel stolen from the “I Have a Dream” monument was cut into four pieces prior to it being sold for scrap.

Dr. Vern L. Howard, chairman of the commission, said Denver police have also identified one of two suspects as 67-year-old Herman Duran. Police are working to identify the second man and locate both suspects.

The MLK monument, which sits in the middle of a roundabout near the City Park Pavilion, was damaged and the pieces stolen between 3:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 18. Police have yet to determine the time of the Thatcher memorial theft.

The items recovered from the thefts were returned to Denver Arts & Venues, which manages both monuments

Howard told Denver7 last week that he believes the vandalism was not coincidental.

"I don't believe it's any coincidence that it happened during the 40th anniversary of the Dr. King commission," Howard said, adding that the vandalism felt personal to him because it happened during Black History Month.

However, police said because the stolen pieces from the MLK monument and the Thatcher memorial were sold as scrap metal, the incident does not appear at this time to be bias-motivated. Final charges will be determined by the Denver District Attorney's Office.

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This isn't the first time the monument has been vandalized, Howard said, but "this is the first time they did it to this extent." Howard estimates damages to the monument could be at least $75,000 as that was the value of one of the pieces stolen from the monument. The entire memorial is valued at $3 million.

The monument, unveiled in 2001, was the vision of Wilma J. Webb, a former state representative and wife of Denver’s first Black mayor, Wellington Webb. A GoFundMe fundraiser has been created to raise money for the repairs to the MLK Monument.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867. You can be eligible for a reward of up to $2,000.

Martin Luther King Jr. monument in Denver’s City Park vandalized overnight

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