- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A memorial dedicated to Richmond, Virginia, police officers killed in the line of duty was vandalized Tuesday night with a message referencing Alton Sterling, the black man fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last week.

Vandals doused the Richmond Police Memorial in Byrd Park with red spray paint and left a message at the base of the monument stating “Justice for Alton.”

The memorial consists of an eight-foot bronze statue depicting a police officer carrying a young girl clutching a teddy bear, as well as a plaque bearing the names of 28 law enforcement officials killed on the job between 1869 and 2003. Sometime before 7 a.m. Wednesday, red X’s were spray-painted on the statue in addition to the “Justice for Alton” message.

The memorial had been on display for nearly three decades beneath a tree near the Richmond Coliseum before being relocated last month to a more prominent location in Byrd Park.

“In 29 years at Festival Park, the statue never had a scratch on it. It’s been here less than 3 weeks,” a reporter for Richmond’s CBS News affiliate tweeted.

Law enforcement became aware of the vandalism Wednesday morning and said it hoped to have the memorial cleaned up within 24 hours.

Richmond Police Deputy Chief Steve Drew called the incident unfortunate, and said it was atypical of the relationship between law enforcement and the local community, the CBS News affiliate reported Wednesday.

A retired officer not identified by the affiliate said the vandals had committed a “despicable, cowardly” act, but agreed it did not represent the rapport between the department and the city’s residents.

Alton Sterling, 37, was fatally shot July 5 by Baton Rogue police officers who were responding to a call concerning a man with a gun. A day later, Philando Castile, 32, was shot and killed by an officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, during a routine traffic stop.

The shootings prompted protests in cities across the country, including a Black Lives Matter rally Thursday in Dallas that tragically ended when a gunman began firing at police officers, killing five.

In the wake of the Dallas ambush, residents of Richmond had flocked to the newly relocated memorial in recent days to pay their respects to fallen police officers.

“The fact that people are coming here to remember officers who were killed [1,200] miles away is equally heartwarming and reassuring,” Glenwood Burley, a retired Richmond police officer, told the city’s Times-Dispatch newspaper Sunday. “The awareness of this statue has grown by leaps and bounds.”

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