Los Angeles

Reward Offered to Find Venice Memorial Vandals

The LA County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a $20,000 reward -- and the City Council is expected to follow suit -- in hopes of identifying whoever defaced a Venice memorial dedicated to POWs and troops missing in action during the Vietnam War.

The county would pay out the reward money for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of those responsible for the vandalism.

The city of Los Angeles is expected to offer $10,000 to be given to anyone with a tip that leads to a conviction. The City Council will likely vote on the proposal next week.

"This disgusting display of disrespect is an insult to those individuals who sacrificed for our country and a slap in the face to their still grieving families," said Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who co-authored the county reward motion with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. "It is also an indirect attack on all of our veterans and currently serving military personnel."

Vandals last week sprayed a thick sheen of silver paint over most of the 2,273 names of Vietnam veterans on the memorial at Metro's bus yard on Pacific Avenue near Sunset Court.

The mural, painted in the early 1990s, has a message at the top reading "You Are Not Forgotten" and bears the names of the soldiers counted as prisoners of war or missing in action in Vietnam.

The vandalism occurred just as the nation was getting ready to observe Memorial Day in honor of fallen soldiers.

"Veterans, neighbors in Venice and people throughout the nation were righteously outraged about this awful act of vandalism," said Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, who today introduced a $10,000 reward motion.

"As we work to restore the mural, we need to take every step necessary to make sure the perpetrators of the crime are arrested and punished," he said.

Bonin's motion calls for increasing the city's standard reward on vandalism cases from $2,000 to $10,000 in this case.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Transit Bureau is leading the investigation. Any tips can be reported to the agency by calling watch commander Ramon Montenegro at (323) 563-5000 or (888) 950-7233, or by reaching Bonin's office at (310) 575-8461.

Bonin said getting rid of the defacement will not be easy.

"The mural, which is several decades old, had no protective anti-graffiti coating, so removal of the vandals' paint could destroy the mural itself," he said.

The mural's artist, Peter Stewart, is deceased, so any photos of the mural that members of the public can provide will be needed to help with the restoration, Bonin said.

Bonin added that the Venice-based mural and arts nonprofit SPARC is "conducting an assessment and will determine the best way to save and restore the mural."

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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