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Police tribute statue in Richmond removed to 'let people come to their senses'

Posted at 7:36 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 19:39:50-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Work crews removed the Richmond Police Memorial statue from Byrd Park Thursday morning following days of unrest, both in Richmond and nationwide, in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis.

Four Minneapolis police officers have been charged in connection with Floyd's death. One of the officers was charged with murder after he pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest.

Penn Burke, whose father helped raise money to fund the Richmond tribute on which his grandfather's name is etched, said a proactive decision was made to remove the statue after three monuments in the River City were topped over five days.

"This pulling them over on your own, that's not the right way to handle it," Burke said. "We thought it would be best to take the statue, put it in safe storage and let tempers cool down and let people come to their senses."

Burke said he understands the protesters frustration, but draws the line at vandalism.

When the statue was recently vandalized with paint, Burke quickly moved to get it cleaned up. But before he could, the Columbus statue was pulled down by protesters.

"We just didn't want that to happen to dishonor if you will, the memory of the slain police officers that they went off to work that morning and they never returned and gave their ultimate sacrifice," Burke said.

Burke said the statue is being stored in a safe location. While it is down, the tribute will be professionally cleaned and polished so it can be reinstalled in Byrd Park in the future.

Burke's grandfather was a Richmond police officer who was killed in the line of duty in 1925.

"The gentleman pulled out a revolver, killed his girlfriend, came down the steps and mortally wounded my grandfather," Burke recalled.

Decades later, Penn's father, who was two months old at the time of his father's murder, led the way for a fundraiser for the memorial.

"The statue means a lot to me as a family member,"Burke said. "It also means a lot to me fore the importance of recognizing all of the other officers that have given their lives protecting the residents and property of the City of Richmond."