Watch CBS News

Martin Luther King Jr. statue vandalized in Denver's City Park: "Heartbreaking"

Martin Luther King Jr. statue vandalized in Denver's City Park
Martin Luther King Jr. statue vandalized in Denver's City Park 03:05

The Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Denver's City Park was vandalized overnight. The damage was discovered on Wednesday morning where a gaping hole remains that used to feature a bronze plaque. There was also other notable damage. 

The MLK Jr. statue in Denver's City Park was vandalized overnight.  MLK Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission

It appears the plaque on the statue along with a pair of bronze torches, from different sides, are missing. The statue is where the annual Marade kicks off every year on MLK Jr. Day. 

The artist who designed the statue is Edward Dwight, a University of Denver alum, who was also in the Air Force training program from which NASA selected astronauts and the first African American Astronaut candidate. Unfortunately, he was not selected for space exploration. He makes his home in the Denver metro area.   

The MLK Jr. statue in City Park was vandalized.  MLK Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission

"It's an absolute disaster and heartbreaking," said Dwight, whose eyesight isn't what it once was. 

"It's not so much the physical part of it but it's kind of the spiritual part for me that somebody would violate this thing... and for what?" asked Dwight. 

One of the metal torches was missing from the MLK Jr. statue in Denver's City Park.  MLK Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission

Dwight told CBS News Colorado's Kelly Werthmann that the molds for the plaques on the statue no longer exist. 

Dr. Vern Howard, chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission, said emotions are running high. 

"I was the project manager and this was like attacking one of my children," said Howard.

One of the panels depicts the time period of slavery to the Civil War and the panel on the other side depicts the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. The one that was stolen is the one depicting the time of slavery and African Americans fighting in U.S. wars.   

MLK Jr. statue artist Edward Dwight and Dr. Vern Howard with the Dr. MLK Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission visited the site of the vandalism at City Park.  CBS

Dwight said that he has created 132 Black memorials around the country and to date a quarter of them have been vandalized. He said the piece that was stolen weighs at least 200 pounds. 

This isn't the first time the monument has been targeted by vandals but never to this extent. 

"It takes a calculated effort to do something like this," said Howard. 

"They had to come here beforehand, came in the daytime," said Dwight. "They'll be back and that's what I'm worried about...  So we need to do something to secure that other piece because they'll come back."

  This image shows what the MLK Jr. statue in City Park looked like before it was vandalized.

Although Dwight said he isn't necessarily angry at what has happened, he is worried about how his creation can be fixed, "I can't see anymore and finding an artist who can replicate this is going to be difficult."

The Dr. MLK Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission confirmed the damage to CBS News Colorado early Wednesday. Denver police said the bias-motivated crime unit is assisting with the investigation. Denver Parks & Rec staff are viewing surveillance video from a camera on the City Park pavilion in hopes of catching the vandals in action. 

Dwight was previously profiled by CBS Colorado's Karen Morfitt about his second career as an artist.     

Anyone with any information about the vandalism to the statue is urged to call Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at (720) 913-7867 - (720) 913-STOP. To be eligible for the $2,000 award and to remain anonymous, tipsters must call the tip line. Crime Stoppers collects information on unsolved crimes or individuals wanted by the police. Callers can remain anonymous. The tip line is answered 24 hours a day - 7 days a week. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.