Updated: Delaware Law Enforcement Memorial damaged with ax

The Delaware Law Enforcement Memorial was damaged Friday by an ax. (Delaware State News (Gary Emeigh)

DOVER – The Delaware Law Enforcement Memorial suffered significant damage when it was vandalized with an ax early Friday, Dover Police said.

According to authorities, officers were called to the scene at approximately 5:35 a.m. after a passerby saw a person striking the memorial on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at Legislative Mall. The person was not present when police arrived, spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman said.

Police were at the scene within two minutes of the call, Cpl. Hoffman said.

The witness initially reported seeing a sledgehammer being used.

Police said the neck of the bronze kneeling officer statue was damaged. Also, two State of Delaware flags soaked in urine were found in front of the statue, authorities said.

An ax was left behind at the scene, police said.

According to Dover Police, “While we cannot release specific details at this time, (we are) confident that the suspect in this case is not affiliated with a group of demonstrators that have conducted protest activity in recent days.”

Investigation is ongoing and anyone with information was asked to call 736-7130. Callers may remain anonymous. Tips may also be submitted to law enforcement through Delaware Crime Stoppers at 800-TIP-3333 or online at delawarecrimestoppers.com; a cash reward of up to $1,000 is possible for information leading to an arrest.

There are currently 44 names of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty on a marble tribute behind the statue.

When asked for reaction Friday morning Delaware State Troopers Association President Thomas Brackin said in general terms “The destruction of the Delaware Law Enforcement Memorial is a direct result of our political leaders not having the will to differentiate between those who are truly protesting peacefully and calling for change and those who have continued to hijack the cause by committing acts of violence, destroying property and endangering their own and many members of the public by walking into traffic and disrupting interstate highways and major roadways.

“When our leaders send the message that they will ignore these violations of state law and in some cases have outright condoned them it leads to increased violence and lawlessness like what we saw today at the police memorial. That is sacred ground and for anyone to disrespect police survivors and police officers in Delaware in such a heinous way truly abhorrent.

Mr. Brackin continued with, “We call on the Attorney General to prosecute whoever is responsible for this act as well as those who have been arrested for breaking the law during the protests of the past several weeks and any yet to come.

“It is important for everyone to know that every member of Delaware Law Enforcement took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the State of Delaware as well as that of the United States. We respect everyone’s right to peacefully protest and remain committed to protecting that right as we have through this time period.

“We simply ask that should we be forced to make lawful arrests of those who violate our laws during these protests that our Governor and our Attorney General stand behind us and recognize that failing to do so jeopardizes the safety of troopers and all Delaware law enforcement officers.”

A Facebook post from Attorney General Kathy Jennings read, “A police memorial on Delaware’s capitol grounds was vandalized last night. The message was clear.

“I don’t care what you call this; it is reprehensible, and we will prosecute whoever is responsible.”

Speaking for more than 700 DTSA members, Mr. Brackin “categorically” denounced the killing of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, and said that “I join all law enforcement labor leaders across the country in condemning the way George Floyd died and holding those responsible accountable.”

Delaware Police Chief’s Council Chairman Patrick Ogden said, “It is understandable that feelings are running high given the current national climate.

“Speaking on behalf of our dedicated Delaware law enforcement officers, I know there is much work ahead of us with the communities we serve, but the criminal actions taken by the individual responsible for damaging and disrespecting Delaware’s Law Enforcement Memorial are repugnant.

“These actions do nothing to solve problems or improve conditions but only unfairly attack the legacies of Delaware police officers, whom we honor for representing the best of our profession.

“These actions are insulting and hurtful to our community, the state and most especially to the family members of those 44 officers who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Also, Delaware Gov. John Carney released a statement that read, “This law enforcement memorial in front of Legislative Hall helps us remember the brave men and women – in Delaware and across our country – who have made the ultimate sacrifice protecting all of us. This kind of vandalism is unacceptable.

“Let’s try to treat one another with respect. Ignore the voices who want to divide us up. Working together, in good faith, is the only way to make meaningful progress.”

Then-Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was among the attendees at the memorial’s dedication on May 3, 2010, the Delaware State News reported at the time.

“Today Delaware recognizes true courage,” he said then. “Today Delaware remembers fallen heroes. Today Delaware makes us all proud,” he said then.

“Throughout our state’s history, 36 men and women strapped on their holsters, pinned on their shield and went to work to protect our streets, to protect our homes, to save our families and then never returned to their own.”

Vice President Biden donated $26,000 that remained in his Senate campaign fund, the Delaware State Troopers’ Association gave $25,000 and Geno’s Steaks in Philadelphia donated $10,000 to the monument effort, a State News story said.

The monument fund raised more than $200,000.