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MLK monument is vandalized


Denver, Colo.

A monument honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., created by the nation's first African American NASA astronaut candidate, was vandalized on Feb. 21 in a Denver, Colo. park by perpetrators who pried off a large bronze plaque and other pieces from the statue's pedestal, authorities said.

The damage to the "I Have a Dream" monument in City Park occurred in the middle of Black History Month and was discovered on Feb. 22 by a concerned citizen, according to Vern Howard, chairman of the Martin Luther King Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission.

Howard, who was the project manager on the monument, told ABC News Thursday he suspects the vandalism and theft was a "coordinated effort," saying the largest piece taken from the monument was too heavy to have been carried off by a single individual.

He said that while some people he has spoken to about the incident believe the parts were taken to be sold on the black market, he suspects the crime was racially motivated.

"I believe that it was more sinister than what may meet the eye," Howard said.  “The Dr. King monument is lit at night, the lights are on. And the Dr. King monument is also on the main thoroughfare as you go through the park. There are other monuments in City Park that are not lit. They are literally in the dark. So, it's a heck of a lot more daring and challenging to go after the Dr. King monument."

The Denver Police Department Bias Motivated Crime Unit has launched an investigation and police are asking for the public's help in catching the culprits.

The City of Denver commissioned sculptor Ed Dwight, the first African American NASA astronaut candidate, to create the monument, which also features bronze statues of Frederick Douglass, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Sojourner Truth.

In late January, a bronze statue of Jackie Robinson, the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers player who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947, was stolen from a park in Wichita, Kan. The Robinson statue, which had been cut off at the ankles, was later found dismantled and burned in a trash can. A 45-year-old man was arrested and charged with felony theft valued at more than $25,000, aggravated criminal damage to property, identity theft and making false information, according to the Wichita Police Department.