A deliberately set fire that damaged the city of Moreno Valley Veterans' Memorial was "an attack on all who have worn the uniform of our nation," a former Riverside County official said Monday.
Sheriff's and Cal Fire arson investigators were working to develop leads in the vandalism that occurred in the predawn hours Saturday at the memorial, which is located within the Moreno Valley Civic Center in the 14100 block of Frederick Street.
"This is outrageous and an attack on the memory of those who died in service to our nation," former county Military Affairs Commissioner Tom Freeman told City News Service. "In my view, it's an attack on all who have worn the uniform of our nation and state in the Armed Forces, as well as on the families of the fallen."
According to city officials, the fire at the memorial was reported about 5 a.m. Saturday, and county fire personnel reached the location a few minutes later, quickly knocking down the flames.
Sheriff's deputies also went to the site but did not locate any suspects.
The blaze destroyed the decorative landscaping at the memorial and caused superficial damage to the "Fallen Soldier" statue, which depicts a pair of combat boots, a soldier's helmet, an M-16 rifle and the names of military personnel from the area whose lives were lost in wars.
The memorial was dedicated in June 2007.
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"The people responsible for this horrible and cowardly act will be brought to justice," Mayor Yxstian Gutierrez said Saturday. "This is not only destruction of government property, but it is also an attack on our veteran community in Moreno Valley."
Sheriff's detectives and Cal Fire arson investigators have been searching for possible suspects since Saturday and may be accessing the Citywide Video Surveillance System to identify the person who entered and fled the memorial grounds around the time of the fire.
"They will be all over this arsonist," said Freeman, who also served as a colonel in the California State Guard, a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force and a spokesman for the sheriff's department. "Sheriff (Chad) Bianco has assured me that they will bring those responsible to justice."
Anyone with information was asked to contact the sheriff's Moreno Valley station at 951-486-6700, or Cal Fire at 951-940-6900.