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Reagan statue in Temecula charred in arson fire

September 23, 2013 5:58:56 PM PDT
A statue of President Ronald Reagan in Temecula is completely charred after it was torched in an apparent arson fire.

Authorities say the vandalism happened last Thursday night in at Ronald Reagan Sports Park. In a photo from The Press Enterprise, the statue was seen covered in black soot, and several decorative tiles behind it had been toppled over.

"The people who did this, they were free to object to anything they wanted, but when they actually destroyed something, they crossed the line," said Perry Peters, founder of Friends of the Ronald Reagan Sports Park -- the group that dedicated the statue.

In 1983, Reagan did something very special for Temecula: He named the town in a speech to the U.S. Olympic committee, saying Temecula showed the "can do" spirit.

The nation's 40th president praised the town's efforts for fundraising and building the park without the help of the government or taxes.

"That may have been their objective, to get rid of that quote, because that's the essence of what we are all about," Peters said.

Whatever the motive for setting the statue on fire, it was a crime. Arson investigators are searching for a suspect.

The vandalism has touched a raw nerve with parkgoers like Dolores Villa, who comes to the park to meditate.

"A beautiful statue and a beautiful writing that we have there to remind us of the heritage that he left us," Villa said.

It's a heritage that will continue to persevere. Donations are already pouring in to help restore the burned statue.

Anyone with information about the vandalism is urged to call the arson hotline at (800) 633-2836.

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