Vandals invade the Elks Lodge over weekend

Break-in occurred during charity ball, caused thousands of dollars in damage

Davitt Armstrong, chairman of the trustees with the Durango Elks Lodge, describes how vandals covered the Lodge Room with fire retardant from an extinguisher and caused other damage. Police are seeking information in the vandalism. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Davitt Armstrong, chairman of the trustees with the Durango Elks Lodge, describes how vandals covered the Lodge Room with fire retardant from an extinguisher and caused other damage. Police are seeking information in the vandalism.

Vandals broke into the Durango Elks Lodge during the weekend and caused several thousand dollars worth of damage.

The burglary occurred late Saturday or early Sunday upstairs in the Lodge Room, where ceremonies are held.

The vandals sprayed a fire extinguisher, covering everything in a fine layer of nontoxic fire retardant, said detective Trish Hutchens, with the Durango Police Department.

They also stole two gavels, knocked over a Bible, knocked an elk’s head off the wall, punctured an antique bench, tore plaques off the walls and threw trophies, said Brett Rundquist, leading knight for the organization.

A cleaning service said it would cost about $6,500 to clean the Lodge Room.

The burglary occurred during the lodge’s annual charity ball, which raises thousands of dollars for scholarships, veteran programs, safety programs and charitable events, he said.

Last year, the event raised about $13,000, he said.

“It’s just ironic that it was done during our biggest charity event of the year,” Rundquist said. “It’s one of the most senseless things they could have done. I don’t know what could have motivated it.”

Police said they had no suspects as of Monday.

“Unfortunately, in this case, we don’t have much motive,” Hutchens said.

Police are uncertain if someone gained entry during the fundraiser or broke in after the event.

The Elks are a social club with 600 members. Some believe they just wear “goofy hats” and conduct secret rituals, Rundquist said, but that is far from true.

“We believe in God and country,” he said.

The damage could have been worse, said Davitt Armstrong, chairman of the trustees for the organization. It is interesting the vandals didn’t do anything to the bar or steal anything of value, he said.

“This is our living room. It’s our home away from home. It’s where we hang out. We adore this building. We adore everything about it,” he said,

Anyone with information about the burglary and criminal mischief is asked to call Hutchens at 375-4733.

shane@durangoherald.com