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Dinosaur head in police custody

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Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014 4:10 PM
The mystery of Durango’s dinosaur head – which appeared mysteriously on Halloween atop the recently installed Arc of History statue and disappeared just as mysteriously on Monday – cleared a little Wednesday when a group of teen pranksters came forward admitting to the theft of the widely admired T. Rex head.
A teenage boy dons the dinosaur head that was stolen Monday from the Arc of History. The person who submitted this photo Wednesday to the Herald requested he not be identified. The dinosaur head is in police custody.

Just days after a brazen crime plunged Durango’s art world into turmoil and its residents into mourning for the city’s too brief dinosaur age, some semblance of order has been restored.

The stolen dinosaur head is in police custody.

Durango Police Department spokesman Lt. Ray Shupe said the group of teen bandits who on Monday stole the dinosaur head from atop the Arc of History – a controversial public artwork at the U.S. Highway 550/160 intersection that involves many rocks suspended by a metal kebab – surrendered it Tuesday morning to the Durango Police Department.

The dinosaur head is now in evidence, Shupe said.

Police still don’t know who originally put the dinosaur head atop the Arc of History.

But Shupe said the pilferers made a full confession.

“They said they just thought it was a funny prank. They didn’t realize they’d committed a crime until they read about it in the newspaper,” he said.

Police do not plan to press charges against the young marauders for thievery, and Shupe did not identify them by name.

The dinosaur head first baffled and delighted Durangoans when it inexplicably appeared atop the Arc of History on Halloween. Then, it vanished Monday.

When The Durango Herald first reported that the dinosaur head had been severed from the Arc of History, the Associated Press picked up the story. On Election Day, The Denver Post, the Washington Times, the Fort-Worth Star Telegram and the Miami Herald reported on Durango’s “Mezozoic mystery” and on Wednesday, National Public Radio broadcast a segment about Durango’s dinosaur head heist.

Though the story made a big bang nationally, in Durango, residents – whiplashed by the crime – clamored for justice.

On the Herald’s website, Bud Hansen demanded that the highway robbers return the dinosaur head.

“Put the DINO head back on that UGLY piece of crap. Looks 110 percent better with the head,” he said.

Nancy Wracher urged the city to negotiate with the kids who’d kidnapped the dinosaur head.

“Why doesn’t the Durango City Council offer to buy the dino head. It really did look good and made everyone smile when they saw it,” she said.

Shupe said “Jurassic Arc” is over, as police do not plan to return the dinosaur head to its perch atop the Arc of History.

“Technically, whoever placed it there was desecrating public property,” he said. “I know some people thought it looked better with the dinosaur head, and I’m not saying it didn’t, but the sculpture belongs to the city, and it’s not a part of the sculpture,” he said.

The provenance of the dinosaur head – an artwork in its own right – remains an enigma.

“We’re still trying to find out who the dinosaur head belongs to,” said Shupe.

Studio & member artist Scott Dye, who analyzed photos of the dinosaur head taken whilst it was atop the Arc of History, said that the dinosaur head did not appear to be store-bought. In fact, he said, whoever created it showed tremendous technique, considerable artistry and a keen sense of proportion.

It’s unclear whether the dinosaur head had been damaged while in the care of the people who plundered it.

When the Herald requested to photograph the dinosaur head in Durango Police Department’s evidence room next to a uniformed police officer, Shupe refused, saying, “No, I can’t let you do that,” citing concerns relating to chain of evidence and the concept of professionalism.

Requests to photograph a uniformed police officer wearing the dinosaur head like a hat were likewise denied.

“You’re killing me. I can’t do that. That would be even more unprofessional,” said Shupe.

But a photograph emailed to the Herald on Wednesday by one of the remorseful youths who decollated the Arc of History suggests the pillaging rascals did not treat the dinosaur head with the reverence one might accord a prehistoric fossil.

The photograph shows a young man standing in a driveway donning the enormous dinosaur head. The scene invokes the “Friends” episode in which a giant turkey carcass is impaled by Monica’s skull and neck.

The person who emailed the photograph to the Herald asked not to be identified because he was one of the people who surrendered the dinosaur head to police Wednesday. He said he took the photo Monday, shortly after the gang decapitated the Arc of History and looted the dinosaur head.

In the photo, the young man ensconced within the dinosaur head makes a peace sign as four others look on, perhaps subconsciously signaling that even the most seemingly invincible predators – whether teenagers, or the T. rex – must resign themselves to their fates, and submit to the arc of history.

cmcallister@durangoherald.com

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