By Randy Arrington
LURAY, June 1 — Early Monday morning, two Confederate statues in Luray were vandalized with profane anti-police graffiti spraypainted onto the base of the stone structures.
“It’s frustrating…that several cops allegedly…well the video speaks for itself,” Luray Police Chief C.S. “Bow” Cook said Monday morning of the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn.
“It’s frustrating because we strive to serve the public, not just protect the public, but actually serve the public,” the police chief continued. “We live in this community; we raise our children in this community; we worship in this community… and all of the community relations work we have done…and all of that is taken away by a cop… well he’s not even a cop anymore… and his bad decisions.”
The graffiti spraypainted on the Barbee Monument at the East Luray Shopping Center and the Confederate monument across from the post office contained anti-police slurs and Antifa messages such as: “Justice! Antifa”, “LPD=KKK”, and “F@#K the Police”.
The messages are believed to be in reaction to the death of George Floyd, who died while being placed under arrest six days ago. A Minneapolis police officer was caught on video holding his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as the suspect told the officer he could not breathe, called for his mother and stated he was going to die.
Reports state the officer continued to hold his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than two minutes after he was unresponsive. Three other officers looked on without intervening. Floyd was pulled over and was being arrested for allegedly passing a fake $20 bill.
“Speaking for all law enforcement, there is a percentage that need to be weeded out, just like in any other profession,” Chief Cook said on Monday. “It’s frustrating this cop did what he did. I hope he gets justice for what he did.”
The Confederate monuments in Luray were vandalized around 2 a.m. Monday morning, according to Chief Cook, and he believes the two suspects caught in surveillance video were local.
“I believe them to be [local]…I believe it was a copycat situation,” Chief Cook said. “They seem to be familiar with the town.”
When asked to elaborate, the police chief stated that video surveillance of the area around the monuments show vehicle activity around the time of the vandalism. There was about 20 minutes between the acts of vandalism about seven blocks apart, according to Cook, and he says the suspects spent two minutes or less at each site.
“There are a limited number of vehicles at that hour,” he said. “And by watching vehicles travel back and forth, they appeared to be familiar with the town.”
The police chief would not elaborate further or offer any other details, citing that the case is still under investigation.
Although he did note that it is hard to determine if the individuals involved are “legit” protestors possibly associated with Antifa, or simply “wannabes” copying what they see on television — but his inclination seems to be the latter.
Efforts to clean up the statues began Monday morning by town crews and volunteers after police checked the scenes. Chief Cook reports that local business owners and community members offered to provide supplies and labor to clean the statues.
Chief Cook said he’s glad to see the positive community support after threats toward police have become common across the country over the last week. One threat over social media this week is being investigated by the Page County Sheriff’s Office that stated the writer wanted to “take out as many law enforcement as he could,” according to Cook.
As protests spread from city to city over the past week after the death of George Floyd, Luray’s police chief hopes that the community he and his officers serve don’t blame them for the actions of others with a similar uniform halfway across the country.
“When you hear about an officer acting this way, then the blame goes on all police officers, and that doesn’t represent the entirety of our country,” Chief Cook said. “And you don’t know who will be targeted in retaliation.
“We need to work together as a community and not blame one group or the other,” he continued. “Local police are here for everyone. We would like to not be blamed for one cop’s poor decisions.
“I still can’t comprehend it all.”