Crime & Courts

How did the soldier in the war monument lose his rifle?

Someone broke the helmet and part of the rifle off this war memorial in a Wichita park.
Someone broke the helmet and part of the rifle off this war memorial in a Wichita park. The Wichita Eagle

Wichita police announced Tuesday that they were investigating the vandalism and theft of a soldier's rifle and helmet from a statue at Veterans Memorial Park. They asked for the public's help.

"We obviously truly appreciate this park and what it stands for, what it means, the sacrifice and service that all our armed forces give to us, so this is something we take very seriously," police spokesman Charley Davidson said at a news conference at the Operation Freedom Memorial on the east bank of the Arkansas River..

But the chairman of the nonprofit board that maintains the monument said the damage happened a week ago, the piece of the monument was found where it fell, and that it's been sent to a foundry in Minnesota for repair.

Bryson Allen, chairman of the Memorial Park Board, said the most likely scenario was that someone was playing on the statue and accidentally broke it at a weak spot in the M-16 rifle that is part of the sculpture.

"I think this was probably a silly accident," he said.

The police department later sent out a news release saying it had "received clarifying information ... indicating a theft and vandalism did not occur."

The release said the department was "pleased at the positive outcome in this investigation, and will continue working with the community in protecting Wichita Armed Forces Memorials dedicated to those who have faithfully served our country."

Allen, a Marine veteran, said the damage was dismaying because the memorials that dot the park aren't toys and the purpose of the park is a place for reflection on the sacrifices U.S. troops from Wichita have made to defend freedom around the world.

"This is a memorial park, not a recreational park," he said.

The board is a private organization that raises funds to maintain the memorials.

The damaged monument is dedicated to local military personnel who died in the war against terrorism.

It is inscribed with the names of soldiers killed in the 9/11 attacks, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Desert Storm and the Khobar Towers. bombing

The damaged sculpture shows a soldier kneeling by a grave marked with a pair of boots, a service rifle and a helmet.

Repairs are expected to cost $2,000.