Chief Durham: Cowardly vandalism of police memorial in Byrd Park 'very disheartening'

Police memorial in Byrd Park vandalized with red spray paint
Byrd Park police memorial vandalized (Source: NBC12 viewer Mary Worth)
Byrd Park police memorial vandalized (Source: NBC12 viewer Mary Worth)
Byrd Park police memorial vandalized (Source: NBC12 viewer Mary Worth)
Byrd Park police memorial vandalized (Source: NBC12 viewer Mary Worth)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - "Disheartening and cowardly" are two words used by Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham, aimed at the vandals who spray-painted the Richmond Police Memorial statue overnight.

The statue is in the process of being cleaned after a red "X" was sprayed over the chest of the bronze officer holding a child. The words "Justice for Alton" were also sprayed beneath the statue, recently relocated to Byrd Park.

Chief Durham talked about the morale of his officers, after a threat over the weekend, and now the recent vandalism on a memorial honoring Richmond officers killed in the line of duty.

"We have to look out for the welfare, morale of our people, our personnel. And right now, they're on edge," said Chief Durham.

However, Chief Durham says despite the backlash, his officers are focused on serving the community - business as usual.

City crews hosed away the words reading "Justice for Alton," one of two men recently fatally shot by police in Louisiana and Minnesota. This, as flowers adorned Richmond's fallen officer memorial, after a sniper killed five uniformed police in Dallas while wounding seven others.

Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham consoled RPD veteran Glenwood Burley, who worked to restore and relocate the statue to Byrd Park just two weeks ago.
"[Burley] has poured everything he has into making sure this memorial for the 28 Richmond police officers who lost their lives defending and protecting citizens in this city, [will be in] a location where people can honor it and respect it...come to pray, and just say thank you," said Chief Durham.

"I just find that the act is despicable and it serves no purpose… It's counter productive to society's values," said Burley.

Those protesting alleged excessive force by police say the vandalism is not representative of their message.

"It's vulgar. It's not positive... It's not going to help anybody. It's not getting the message across," said Jamilia Cunningham.

"Do I understand what would make someone angry enough to do this… yes. However, vandalism is wrong. Assuming every cop is bad is the equivalent of assuming every black person is bad," said Trayvon Fulton, with the group Hope RVA. The group has organized peace protests over shootings involving police in recent days.

Despite the vandalism, the effort continued Wednesday morning to install a walkway to the memorial. Professional crews are in the process of removing the paint from the statue.

"[The vandalism] is not going to slow us down. It's not going to stop the progress on this project," said Penn Burke, whose grandfather was killed in the line of duty while serving as a Richmond Police officer.

The statue's paint is set to be removed Thursday.

Richmond Police met with the community Tuesday night to discuss gun violence. Durham says more of these conversations with the community are needed.

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