Community rallies to repair vandalized Colorado Freedom Memorial

Police said the incident is suspicious and they are investigating it as possible vandalism

AURORA | Vandals caused an estimated $50,000 in damage to the Colorado Freedom Memorial just a day before the Fourth of July, police said, and a fundraising effort is underway to restore the Aurora icon.

The memorial near Buckley Air Force Base had one of its glass panels shattered, which carries the names of soldiers from Colorado who have died in battle or missing in action.

20170703-Freedom Vandal-Aurora, Colorado

Damage to the Colorado Freedom Memorial on Monday July 03, 2017 at 756 N. Telluride St. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20170703-Freedom Vandal-Aurora, Colorado

Damage to the Colorado Freedom Memorial on Monday July 03, 2017 at 756 N. Telluride St. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20170703-Freedom Vandal-Aurora, Colorado

Damage to the Colorado Freedom Memorial on Monday July 03, 2017 at 756 N. Telluride St. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20170703-Freedom Vandal-Aurora, Colorado

Damage to the Colorado Freedom Memorial on Monday July 03, 2017 at 756 N. Telluride St. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20170703-Freedom Vandal-Aurora, Colorado

Damage to the Colorado Freedom Memorial on Monday July 03, 2017 at 756 N. Telluride St. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20170703-Freedom Vandal-Aurora, Colorado

Damage to the Colorado Freedom Memorial on Monday July 03, 2017 at 756 N. Telluride St. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

Police said the incident is suspicious and they are investigating it as possible vandalism.

Rick Crandall, the board president for the Colorado Freedom Memorial, said he has little doubt that the damage was deliberate.

“There is no other explanation other than it was intentional,” he said.

The panels cost between $50,000 and $55,000, he said, and he is hoping to replace the broken panel as soon as possible.

Crandall said he noticed the damage when he visited the memorial to make sure it was tidy and ready to go for people who wanted to visit it over Independence Day.

He said he tried to think of a scenario that didn’t involve deliberate vandalism, but couldn’t think of any.

The damage is a disappointment, he said, but the memorial stayed open through the holiday anyway.

“I just feel sad that that doesn’t surprise anybody anymore,” he said.

Crandall said the memorial has insurance but he isn’t sure yet how much of the repair cost will be covered.

Efforts are already underway to raise the necessary funds to replace the panel.

A GoFundMe.com page (https://www.gofundme.com/restore-colorado-freedom-memorial) set up this week has already raised more that $6,000 toward a $70,000 goal.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, said he hopes to assist with fundraising efforts.

“As a Marine Corps combat veteran, who represents Aurora in the U.S. House of Representatives, I’m deeply saddened by the act of vandalism that shattered a glass panel at the Freedom Memorial,” Coffman said in a statement posted to his twitter page. “The glass panel displayed the names of the fallen from Colorado and I will help lead an effort to replace the panel.”

A fundraiser is planned this weekend at the memorial, which is located at 756 Telluride St.

From 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday July 8 there will be an open house at the memorial where Crandall said officials will lead tours of the memorial and answer questions about it. There will also be merchandise for sale, he said.

Aurora Police and Metro Denver Crime Stoppers are both offering rewards of $2,000 each for any information that leads to an arrest and conviction if the investigation finds the broken glass was the result of a criminal act.

Anyone with information is urged to call either Aurora Police Detective Eric White at 303-739-6011 or Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867.