Less than two weeks after Clovis residents celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy, a plaque located in a city park was stolen and found destroyed Friday morning.
Clovis Police Chief Steve Sanders said the 24-by-30 bronze plaque was located ground down and, "unfortunately, in pieces," at Clovis Recycling. Employees there had been warned to be on the lookout for the plaque on the basis of its value as scrap metal.
"We've identified a suspect, but no arrest has been made at this time," Sanders said Friday afternoon. "The investigation is continuing."
Joyce Pollard, president of the Clovis Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, found out about the theft Friday morning. A friend heading to Albuquerque along West Grand Avenue saw that the monument, which is clearly visible from the street, was missing the plaque, and called her on his way out of town. She visited the park to confirm the news, then headed to the police station.
"It's just unthinkable someone would do that," Pollard said Friday afternoon, when the plaque was still missing. "Everybody's just so disappointed because of that. You're trying to instill pride in the community, and why somebody would want to do this is beyond me."
When informed of the plaque's fate Friday evening, Pollard said she had considered the plaque's value as scrap metal the most likely motive for the theft.
The Martin Luther King Jr. plaque was the centerpiece of a monument created in 2003 at Potter Park at a cost of $7,000 — $500 from the Clovis City Commission and the rest from private donations. A Coretta Scott King plaque and monument was placed next to it last year.
Clovis Community Development Director Claire Burroughes said the replacement cost for the plaque, going off of the cost of the Coretta Scott King plaque, is $4,200. Pollard said the Coretta Scott King plaque was paid for through private donations.