Rampaging driver damages War Veterans Monument

Police seek suspect vehicle after recovering bumper

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“I don’t understand – why would they want to do something like this, why would they want to run over this? This is a reverent place.”

Kilgore’s War Veterans Monument memorializes the legacies of thousands of locals who served in the Armed Forces, some who gave their lives for their country and community. It was scarred over the weekend, the sanctity of the space violated as a driver plowed over a concrete bumper, across the grass and into one of the heavy, black marble panels of the memorial.

“It’s just unbelievable,” Susan Tacito said, surveying the damage alongside her husband.

The impact from the vehicle – police suspect it happened Friday night or Saturday morning – chipped, scratched and rotated one panel, shifted others in their footings and wrecked several other nearby elements as the tires clawed at the wet grass.

“Considering all possibilities Kilgore Police suspect this act was intentional,” Kilgore Police Department announced. From KPD’s assessment, “The unknown person and vehicle crashed into the Veterans Memorial wall, a bench, and a sign, then proceeded through the park and exited near the northern parking lot next to Driller Stadium. Tire tracks indicate the vehicle may have struck a tree stump before leaving the park.”

The vehicular-vandal left a front bumper valance behind, and investigators hope to the plastic ‘air dam’ can help track down the culprit, especially if someone sees a related vehicle missing the piece.

According to KPD, “The valance would have originated from a 1999-2003 Ford F-150 or Expedition.”

Kilgore War Veterans Association President John Edney got the call Saturday morning, and his heart sank.

“Crazy, crazy,crazy,” he said, still stunned days later, the wounds in the park still raw. “Lord have mercy, who knows? Why would they do it?

“Maybe somebody knows this guy and they’ll turn him in. To have something of this magnitude done doesn’t make sense.”

The monument was completed in 2004 and now bears more than 3,000 veterans’ names.

That includes Jerry Jarrett, Teresa White’s stepfather, dead 10 years.

“Isn’t this sad?” she said Monday.

Fortunately, Edney said, the plaque the vehicle hit was pushed into the soft dirt as its signpost bent, so it was neither irreparably damaged nor stolen.

“That was irreplaceable,” he said. As for the black panel, “It was very fortunate it didn’t turn over. That was just so lucky that is didn’t fall and break.”

Edney estimated the damages between $3,500 and $5,000 – or more, once everything is set right.

“I don’t understand why someone would do it,” said John Tacito, taking a close look at the exposed glue where the heavy panel had been rotated out place. “I can’t believe someone would do that.”

Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact KPD Det. John Rowe at 903-218-6904 (case no. 1905-0198).

Anonymous tips can be called into Crime Stoppers at 903-236-7867 in Gregg County or 903-655-8477 in Rusk County. Information leading to the arrest of the person(s) responsible for a crime may result in a cash award.

Information can also be submitted anonymously by texting “KILGORE” and the lead to #847411.

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