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Posted: Mar 26 2007, 08:24 AM
Member No.: 1
Joined: 8-October 04
March 26, 2007
Vets memorial damaged
# Motorist crashes car through Capitol Complex
By The Associated Press
A motorist drove a car through West Virginia’s open-air, pedestrians-only Veterans Memorial early Sunday morning, damaging at least one black granite panel that lists the state’s war dead, authorities said.
State Administration Secretary Rob Ferguson described the damage as extensive.
Artist P. Joseph Mullins, who designed the memorial and sculpted its four statues, said he was pleased the damage was not worse. Besides the cracked panel, the memorial had red paint scrapes and at least two limestone barricades were knocked over.
The Charleston Police Department cited Newton resident Howard Roland Gentry, 59, for leaving the scene of an accident and failure to maintain control of his vehicle. A voicemail message left at Gentry’s residence was not immediately returned.
Charleston police said late Sunday they hope to file more charges against Gentry. “We’re investigating and checking with the [Kanawha County] prosecutor’s office about filing felony destruction of property charges,” Sgt. C.E. Sisson said. “They estimate at the Capitol the damage was in excess of $200,000.”
A police complaint alleges Gentry drove onto the Capitol Complex sometime between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. and tried unsuccessfully to drive his Subaru up the steps of the state Cultural Center.
Next, Gentry drove across the grounds, knocked over a limestone barricade and drove through the memorial, the complaint says.
After exiting on the other side, Gentry knocked over a second limestone barricade and a light pole, according to the complaint. Gentry left the Capitol Complex and drove onto Interstate 77, where he was stopped at the Westmoreland Road exit about three miles away.
Mullins said steel and glass bridges that cross the memorial’s reflecting pool must be inspected for structural damage because they were not designed to hold vehicles.
Left unscathed were the memorial’s four bronze statues, each representing both a branch of the U.S. military and the four major wars of the 20th century.
The black granite panels line the interiors of the four limestone columns and list the more than 10,000 West Virginians killed during the U.S. conflicts of the 20th century.
Dedicated in 1995, the memorial has become a popular feature of the state Capitol Complex. The state has been raising funds to correct misspellings and add names to the panels.
Police are not sure why Gentry drove through the Capitol grounds early Sunday, but have ruled out alcohol use, Sisson said. “I think he was pretty much silent,” he said.
Gentry had insurance but Sisson was not sure whether the policy would cover the damage.
The Charleston Gazette contributed to this report.