Crime

Bronze pelican 'flies' from perch, reward is offered

The complete sculpture, 'Resting Fishermen,' was installed in the 1300 block of Whitehead Street in January. All of the pelicans have been removed since the theft early Monday because the entire wall is damaged.
The complete sculpture, 'Resting Fishermen,' was installed in the 1300 block of Whitehead Street in January. All of the pelicans have been removed since the theft early Monday because the entire wall is damaged.

A thief early Monday removed an 80-pound, 26-inch-tall bronze pelican from a sculpture installed atop a concrete wall on a Key West street steps away from the giant Southernmost Point buoy.

Worth more than $5,000 and part of a $26,000 sculpture of five permanently affixed in January, the hefty piece was somehow ripped off a steel rod embedded in a concrete wall.

"They were able to get under it somehow," said Adam Russell, the Key West artist who created "Resting Fishermen," a set of five bronze pelicans, for the developers of new homes in the 1300 block of Whitehead Street. "They bent an element inside of the sculpture."

Bronze doesn't just snap off, said Russell, who believes the thief used a truck and chain to yank the pelican out of its concrete perch and spent several hours on more than one occasion to pull off the crime.

"It's either on its way to a scrap yard in Miami or in the shallow water behind the buoy," said Russell, who still has the molds and plans to replace the pelican.

The stolen pelican can be identified by the molds, which make it one-of-a-kind, Russell said.

These things happen, said Russell, 33, a Toledo, Ohio, native who moved to Key West seven years ago and runs Key West Pottery. 

But in Key West, where art is a way of life and the pelicans were part of the city's mandated Art in Public Places law, which requires developers private and public to spend 1 percent of their total building costs on art, the theft sparked local tempers this week.

Police have taken a report on the stolen pelican, now an open case of grand theft, and metal recycling centers in the region have been notified.

The property owner, who is building seven $1.3 million single-family homes on the site, still under construction, is offering $1,000 reward for the pelican's return.

"Whatever. Bring it back, or information that leads to bringing it back," said John Tutlewski, the project's developer.

Tutlewski, of Key West, said the five bronze pelicans were all in a row Sunday afternoon. But by Monday, he said, an employee came up to him and asked, "Did you take the pelican?"

Tutlewski said he is disappointed and just wants the pelican returned. He asks that anyone with information contact Key West police at (305) 809-1000.

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