Statue Reward Offered; Sculptor Speaks

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Three City Council members are personally funding a $5,000 reward for the Ronald Reagan statue vandal, and the sculptor told the Independent that she does not believe the attack was politically motivated.

Newport Beach City Councilman Keith Curry, who first proposed the reward at Tuesday’s council meeting, said the $5,000 reward would come from councilmembers’ personal funds, not the council’s discretionary fund or other public funds.

The reward is for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the vandalism and apparent attempted theft of the Ronald Reagan Memorial Statue in Bonita Canyon Sports Park on Sunday. The suspect used a chain or rope connected to a truck to pull the life-size bronze statue partially off its base, according to police. The statue has since been removed by city crews for repair, and pending a plan to reinstall it in the park.

Curry, Mayor Mike Henn and another, anonymous councilmember put up the money for the reward.

“This was a sad and tragic assault on our community,” Curry said during the council meeting.

Curry originally proposed that the city offer a reward, but Councilmember Nancy Gardner noted that there are many crimes committed in the city and questioned singling out one for a reward.

A few residents also offered to contribute, Curry said, but there would be administrative problems if the vandal is never caught and the money had to be returned.

Meanwhile, Balboa Island sculptor and artist Miriam Baker, who created the statue for the city and is currently traveling in Asia, told the Independent, “When I first heard the news I thought about all the hard work it was to create this statue.  Not just in the creation that I had to do, but the 4 1/2 months it took the foundry to make the bronze and all the work with the city engineering department to make it sturdy and safe.

“This Reagan statue turned out to be a very friendly, smiling version of him greeting all the residents at their park.  I am proud of my Reagan statue; he deserves to endure.”

According to Baker the statue weighs “about 350-400 pounds” and she believes although a single person would have been unable to lift the statue without some kind of help, whoever tried to vandalize or steal it probably was motivated by greed rather than dislike for the former president for political reasons.

“My guess is they were trying to steal it for the bronze value which is around $700,” she said. She said there are other ways that would have been easier and more effective if the vandals had just wanted to make a political statement against the statue.

She also joked that “maybe someone loved the Reagan statue so much that he wanted it all to himself.”

As for the future security of the statue Baker said “I think the city should have a light and a camera focused on the statue to prevent the theft of it.”

Baker is expected to back in Newport Beach next week to help the City repair the statue and return it to the park.

Anyone with information about this incident should contact Det. Pete Carpentieri at 949-644- 3772 or [email protected].

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