Atascadero memorial vandalism was an accident, suspect says

acornejo@thetribunenews.comJanuary 3, 2014 

A 49-year-old Atascadero man turned himself in to authorities on Friday and claimed responsibility for the vandalism of the Faces of Freedom Veterans Memorial grounds in Atascadero on Wednesday, telling police it was an accident.

Sean David Cronin was in custody at County Jail on charges of violating the terms of his probation. Additional charges of driving on a suspended license and hit-and-run — both misdemeanors — are pending, said Sgt. Caleb Davis.

Cronin told authorities that he accidentally hit the wrong pedal and was thrust into the center of the memorial. He said he fled the scene because he was concerned about getting in trouble in light of past run-ins with the law.

Davis said there was no evidence to indicate Cronin was under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the incident.

Cronin walked into the lobby of the Atascadero Police Department at 11 p.m. Thursday and surrendered. Cronin’s truck was impounded as evidence.

The Faces of Freedom display honors San Luis Obispo County veterans with black granite-paneled walls inscribed with the names of military service members who died. It features an 8-foot sculpture by Atascadero artist Mark Greenaway that depicts soldiers from World War I to Iraq.

Cronin’s maroon Chevrolet crew cab pickup was captured on surveillance video fleeing the memorial New Year’s Day.

He caused an estimated $15,000 in damage. Several marble benches and lighting fixtures were damaged.

The surveillance video was released to the public by the Police Department in an effort to identify him.

“The thing that is the most gratifying is how our supporters, the media and the eyewitness who got on the phone right away were all willing to help,” said Ann Hatch, spokeswoman for the Veterans Memorial Committee. “We were able to take the video clips to the public which convinced this guy to give himself up. It was really a community effort.

The Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service