MLK statue, Martin Luther King Statue

Stolen Martin Luther King Artwork Recovered From Scrap Yard

Denver police successfully recovered three bronze artworks stolen from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s monument in City Park.

Denver police have successfully recovered three bronze artworks stolen from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s monument in City Park, unveiling a shocking tale of theft for scrap metal, according to ABC News. The thieves targeted the “I Have a Dream” monument on Feb. 18, stealing a large bronze plaque weighing over 200 pounds, depicting African Americans who served in the U.S. military from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War, along with two smaller bronze pieces from a unity torch and a choir lady.

The stolen art pieces were later discovered alongside seven other bronze works taken from the Thatcher Memorial Fountain in the same park, dedicated to Joseph Addison Thatcher, a historical figure and founder of the Denver National Bank in the late 1800s. The theft from the Thatcher Memorial was unknown until the recovery of the items from a scrap metal business.

Denver Parks and Recreation only noticed the missing pieces from the Martin Luther King monument on Feb. 21, prompting a police investigation. The large plaque was cut into four pieces before being sold for scrap. All stolen pieces have been returned to Denver Arts & Venues, the entity managing both monuments.

Police are actively seeking two suspects, one of whom is identified as 67-year-old Herman Duran. Despite initial concerns of racial motivation by Vern Howard, chairman of the Martin Luther King Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission, police found no evidence supporting that theory. The incident is not considered bias-motivated, pending final findings presented to the Denver District Attorney’s Office.

The sculptor of the King monument, Ed Dwight, expressed disappointment, emphasizing the lack of security measures for the $3 million monument. “Obviously, I’m extremely disappointed. But it was sitting there waiting to be vandalized,” Dwight told ABC News. Dwight, the first African American NASA astronaut candidate, created the memorial featuring bronze statues of Frederick Douglass, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, and Sojourner Truth. The stolen curved bronze plaque, molded uniquely to the pedestal, poses a significant challenge for replacement.

“It’s one of my big successes in my body of work,” said Dwight, “It attracts people from all over the world that come here just to see this memorial. So, for somebody to come and vandalize it is just disgusting, to tell you the truth.”

Denver Police released a photo of an SUV suspected to be used in the theft, and investigations are ongoing. In a similar incident in late January, a bronze statue of Jackie Robinson was stolen in Wichita, Kansas, highlighting a disturbing trend of theft for the potential financial value of the metal. Authorities arrested a 45-year-old man in connection with the Robinson statue theft.