The Denver Police Department is trying to learn why a man bought a ticket to the Denver Art Museum and then proceeded to shatter multiple priceless works of art inside of a fourth floor exhibit Sunday afternoon.
“Every item has a cultural value that is enormous,” said Christoph Heinrich, Director of the Denver Art Museum.
The suspect, identified by the Denver Police Department Monday as Jake Siebenlist, faces charges for two counts of criminal mischief. According to the inmate records on the Denver Sheriff’s Department website, the 18-year-old is accused of damaging at least $20,000 of art museum property.
Heinrich said Sunday’s incident was the first such case of vandalism in the decades-long history of the
Denver Art Museum.
Officers from the Denver Police Department first arrived at the Stampede Art Gallery at the Denver Art Museum at around 1:45 p.m. Sunday, according to an arrest affidavit for the case.
Witnesses told police that Siebenlist walked to a glass bonet and pushed it over, causing it to shatter. When security tried to restrain him, the affidavit said, Sibenlist pushed patrons out of the way
and began to throw sculptures across the room and shatter other works of art on the ground.
The affidavit said Siebenlist tried to damage two paintings that were protected by plastic glass, but was not successful.
While security worked to restrain him, the affidavit said he tried to punch those officers until they were able to pin him down. He was later taken into custody.
“If you destroy artwork in a gallery, that is to begin with very weird,” Heinrich said. “Obviously he was very aggravated and not in a state of mind that is reasonable.”
Heinrich said gallery staff and museum security tipped police off to what happened. According to the arrest affidavit, the following works from the exhibit containing 300 animal-themed objects were destroyed:
- Wolf Headdress Mask
- Raven Rattle Tlingit
- Jaina Style Figurine
- Moche Portrait Bottle
- Chinese Vase with Phoenixes
- Moche Rattle Bowl
- Mayan Fish-Shaped Vessel
- Mayan Vessel with God on Bird
- Chinese Initiator Sculpture
- Beware of Cranes Sculpture
During a news conference on Monday, Heinrich said he doesn't believe the museum could have done anything to prevent what happened, and that the suspect did not display any signs of what was to come when he bought his ticket.
“We will look at the protocols, but I think right now I do not know how we could prevent something like this in the future better,” Heinrich said.
The museum was open on Monday, but Heinrich said he expected the Stampede exhibit to be closed for a few days for cleanup.
Siebenlist appeared in court on Monday afternoon, and is expected to be released on a personal recognizance bond after spending the night in jail. The judge said he didn't need to post money due to his lack of a personal history, and the fact Siebenlist's mother works from home.
In court, he was ordered not to take any substances other than prescription medication.
“There was a lot of force involved,” Heinrich said. “This was obviously a very angry young man.”
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