TULSA, Okla. — A man was arrested after he was found vandalizing gravestones at Oaklawn Cemetery, causing thousands of dollars in damages.
Police said they caught Joshua Dean vandalizing the headstones after someone called it in. He was arrested for felony malicious injury to property. Dean told police he was looking for a place to sleep in the cemetery.
“For families out there, just know that we’re going to be trying to get those back up in good orders as soon as we can. So from our standpoint, it’s more getting those headstones reset for those loved ones that are buried out there,” Terry Ball said.“When I went out there today and looked at the sheer destruction of what that individual did overnight, or last night, it’s very frustrating.”
Oaklawn is one of Tulsa's historic cemeteries. It's the oldest one in town and has been the main focus of the search for mass graves connected to the 1921 race massacre. During the October excavation, the researchers discovered at least 12 coffins holding human remains. The team has yet to determine if those human remains are associated with the Tulsa race massacre.
On Wednesday, about 60 of the headstones were found overturned, cracked, and damaged. None of them in the area where they've been searching.
“Some of them are small, probably 20-30 pounds, but some in there are probably a couple hundred pounds that he pushed over at minimum," Ball said. "I mean it took a lot of effort to do what he did to those headstones. I mean to leverage your body up against them and try to do what he did, it took some effort."
City officials said they have security cameras on the west side, which is where they've been digging for the mass graves, but the area where this happened had no video surveillance. He said after this incident, that is likely to change.
“There’s not any video cameras at this point, we may have to talk about maybe adding those now,” Ball said.
They said it could cost $15,000 to $20,000 to repair the damage, and now they have to find the funding to cover the unexpected expense. Ball said when damage is caused on city property, a claims adjuster is hired to hold the person responsible accountable for the repair costs, but he's not certain of the city's approach to this particular case.
“With the police having arrested the individual, I would assume that we would go after that person at least to try to get reimbursement for it at some point,” he said.
Ball said he's not sure how long it will take to repair the headstones.
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