Sculptor aims to repair Law Enforcement Memorial

Minnesota-based sculptor Nick Christiansen says he’ll likely need at least three 10- to 12-hour days to repair damage to the neck area of the law enforcement officer depicted as kneeling in grief. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

DOVER — There’s plenty of repair needed for the Delaware Law Enforcement Memorial vandalized on June 12, its creator says.

When completed, however, the bronze statue in the Legislative Mall area should look good as new.

That’s according to Minnesota-based sculptor Nick Christensen, who describes the task ahead as immense.

Mr. Christensen says he’ll likely need at least three 10- to 12-hour days to repair damage to the neck area of a law enforcement officer depicted as kneeling in grief.

“This is the worst (damage) I’ve seen and I’ve been doing it for 20 years,” said Mr. Christensen, who estimated he’s been involved in creating more than 100 projects overall.

“The biggest challenge here is that I don’t have the luxury of being in my own shop.

“Being on site means I had better bring all the tools and equipment needed, which will be smaller than I could use in a more controlled environment where you can just turn switches on.”

The statue must be removed from its base, with welding, cutting and grinding to follow. Once returned to the base, it must be sandblasted and recolored to blend in with the area around it.

Regardless of difficulties ahead, Mr. Christensen professes to be driven by a passion to make the memorial whole again.

“I look at it not as an object but what it stands for, which evokes a truly noble meaning for me,” he said on Friday.

“A lot of law enforcement officers lose their lives in the line of duty and the least I can do is provide them an item of recognition that far exceeds expectations of what it should be.”

According to Mr. Christensen, creating a similar statue involves a 74-step process from start to finish, requiring 700 to 1,000 hours over a period of months.

Behind the officer is a wall inscripted with the names of Delaware’s 44 law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.
Eight names have been added since the memorial was dedicated in 2010, Delaware Law Enforcement Memorial committee chairman John Horsman said.

The total repair project cost is undetermined, with looming expenses including the bronze repair, fixing nearby bricks, overall refurbishment and the price tag for an enhanced security system. On Friday, Mr. Horsman said just over $38,000 had been raised overall, including $10,000 from a donor who wished to remain anonymous.

Maintenance runs about $6,000 annually, involving cleaning, shrubbery and Christmas lights, Mr. Horsman said.

The Delaware State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police initiated the GoFundMe account for the donations, which listed a fundraising goal of $50,000. As of Friday at 3:30 p.m., 367 donors had contributed.

Donations to the DE FOP Official Law Enforcement Memorial Fund can be made online at GoFundMe.com.

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.

“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 to the monument fund. More than $200,000 was raised overall.

The reported vandalism followed an area protest the night before in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in the custody of police in Minnesota. Mr. Horsman, a member of the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council and past Capitol Police Chief, believes the incident was perpetrated by a lone unaffiliated person and not related to any protests.

“During my career we had many peaceful protests at Legislative Mall and never once was there a concern for the memorial,” he said.

A 44-year-old Camden man was arrested by Delaware State Police on the night of the incident.

Authorities said an ax was found by officers arriving to the scene on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (South), Dover Police said. A felony criminal mischief over $5,000 damage charge was filed and the defendant was initially held at Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown in lieu of $5,100 cash bail.

According to police, a passerby reported an incident supposedly involving a person wielding a sledgehammer at approximately 5:35 a.m., police said. According to authorities, two urine-soaked State of Delaware flags were placed in front of the officer statue.

Surveillance video was utilized during the investigation and a defendant’s cell phone was located at the scene, authorities said.
City police did not believe the incident was connected to any protest group.

Suspects sought, reward offered

The search for those who spray-painted “BLACK LIVES MATTER” on the Delaware State Police Memorial in Dover last month continues as well.

On Tuesday, DSP posted four surveillance photos online at dsp.delaware.gov while asking for the public’s assistance in identifying suspects for the incident sometime between the overnight hours on June 15 into June 16.

The memorial at the DSP headquarters complex has since been repaired, spokeswoman Master Cpl. Melissa Jaffe said Friday.

DSP asked anyone with information to contact Troop 3, Property Crimes Unit, Detective Baker 697-4454. Information may also be provided by calling Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333 or online at delaware.crimestoppersweb.com.

The Delaware State Troopers Association is offering a $3,000 reward to anyone providing information on the incident that leads to an arrest and conviction.

On June 12, DTSA President Tom Brackin released a statement that read, in part.

“That is sacred ground and for anyone to disrespect police survivors and police officers in Delaware in such a heinous way truly abhorrent.

“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.”

When announcing the vandalism, DSP included a statement:

“The memorial is dedicated to the Troopers who gave their lives in the line of duty by making the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and protection of our citizens.

“With each fallen Officer’s name engraved in the memorial as a remembrance, it stands as a place of reflection for surviving family members, friends, loved ones, and fellow Troopers to pay tribute.

“Our sincerest thoughts and prayers go out to the surviving family members, who are heartbroken by this act. Any vandalism to such an important memorial is appalling and unacceptable.”