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Video released of truck wanted in defacing of city's veterans memorial

Outrage, followed by sadness, was felt by veterans after learning that someone had deliberately damaged the Faces of Freedom Veterans Memorial grounds in Atascadero, Calif., on Wednesday.

Atascadero police are hoping a surveillance video that captured the suspected vandal in the act will lead them to that person.

In the video, a maroon Chevrolet crew cab pickup truck, suspected to be a 1988-1997 model, can be seen leaving the property, which sustained an estimated $15,000 in damage.

The truck has a black lumber rack and toolbox in the bed, with chrome body trim along both sides, including the wheel wells.

The tailgate of the truck has a chrome strip with the word “Chevrolet” in black across it.

Sgt. Jason Carr said that even with video enhancement, it is not clear how many people were in the truck at the time of the incident. No other acts of vandalism were reported that day, he said.

Several marble benches and lighting fixtures were damaged by the hit-and-run vandal.

“The initial reaction from the foundation was ‘Wow, really?’ We were in shock,” said Ann Hatch, spokeswoman for the Veterans Memorial Committee. “Subsequently, that was followed by anger by a lot of people who support the memorial. It was a real insult to veterans and active duty military.”

Hatch said the surveillance video shows the truck looping through a nearby parking lot, hopping the curb and driving through the memorial without stopping.

Veteran Al Fonzi, who assisted with the effort to build the memorial in 2008, went to the scene shortly after it happened around 10 a.m. Wednesday.

“The benches that were hit were broken and shattered in pieces and scattered over the bricks and debris were all over,” Fonzi said.

Fonzi said at first he was angry but then just felt sad that someone would do something like that.

One of those marble benches was purchased by a widow as a memorial, he said.

“There is a personal element there, which makes this whole thing even sadder,” Fonzi said.

The Veterans Memorial Foundation is working with the Atascadero Police Department on the investigation. This is the first time the memorial has been significantly damaged.

The foundation gifted the memorial to the city in 2008 but pays for upkeep of the site.

Donations can be made at facesoffreedommemorial.org.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Atascadero, Calif., Police Department at 461-5051.

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