Teen Who Vandalized Presidential Gravesite Apologizes, Says It Was an Accident

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April 08, 2019Apr 08, 2019

Public respect for the office of President of the United States seems to be lessening as of late. That appears to apply to deceased presidents as well.

According to Fox News, two people were spotted entering the gravesite former President Gerald R Ford shares with his wife Betty at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan late last month.

The gravesite is a disc of concrete surrounded by a low, slanted wall. On one wall sits the phrase “Lives Committed to God, Country and Love” in raised letters above the names and dates of the president and first lady.

Surveillance footage captured a man and woman arriving at the gravesite with skateboards. The woman kicked her skateboard right at the president’s and first lady’s names.

They then sat atop the low wall and dangled their legs over the commemorative phrase. The couple could be seen prying the “E” off the word “Committee” and stealing it.

According to the museum, it costs $400 to replace the letter, Fox 17 West Michigan reported.

Museum deputy director Joel Westphal wanted to remind that public, “There are not many presidential grave sites; we are one of only 14 presidential museums around the country.”

On Thursday, the Grand Rapids Police Department announced on Facebook that the suspects caught on camera had turned themselves in, about a week after the incident. Police said they’re cooperating with investigators. 

The man who vandalized the gravesite, 19-year-old Chris Johnson, later apologized for doing it, according to the Grand Rapids Press. He also returned the missing letter.

“I’m sorry it happened and I’m sorry I broke it,” he said. “It wasn’t malicious. I didn’t know what it was, and now I’m in the works of trying to fix things.”

Johnson said he and the girl he was skateboarding with didn't know that the cement area they were playing around in was a presidential gravesite. He said he's received a lot of angry comments online for his actions.

“I thought it was just part of the park," Johnson added. "[The 'e'] was wiggly and the bracket was broken and it came off."

The museum said they're glad the responsible party came forward.

President Ford, a Republican, died in 2006. His wife died in 2011. President Ford was born in Omaha, Nebraska but raised in Grand Rapids. He became president in 1974 after President Nixon’s resignation and served until President Carter took office in 1977.

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