The two stone tablets that honor military veterans were lying on their sides and shattered when city employees discovered the scene around 9 a.m. Monday.
“A neighborhood canvass has been conducted and we are researching any video surveillance that may be available to us,” Lt. James Cavins said Monday afternoon.
Cavins said police don’t want “to get tunnel vision” when investigating how the stone tablets were knocked over by assuming vandals were responsible.
“We’re going to investigate all avenues. We just want to cover all of our bases,” he said.
O’Fallon Mayor Gary Graham said weather experts are examining the site to determine whether the tablets fell as a result of a microburst, an isolated, localized high-wind event that can sometimes accompany a storm. He also said insurance examiners will be on scene Tuesday to help determine what may have caused the tablets to fall over.
“We’re hoping (high wind) is what it was. The police are doing what they can do,” he said.
Whatever the investigation reveals, Graham said, the town will still hold its annual Memorial Day celebration at the site.
“This isn’t going to change that. We have 500 people come out for that,” he said. “Maybe more people will come because of this.”
Betty Osborne, the president of the O’Fallon Veteran’s Monument Committee who spearheaded effort to build the memorial, said hearing of the damage “left me numb.”
“And I’m not letting myself get overly angry because I’d like to find out what really happened,” Osborne said. “I sure hope it was the weather. If not, Betty’s not going to be very happy. O’Fallon is very upset over it. We just have to wait.”
Osborne first had the idea to build a veteran’s memorial in O’Fallon more than 50 years ago. She said movie theater newsreel footage and stories told by returning soldiers affected her all her life. “O’Fallon had to have a veteran’s monument, that’s all there was to it,” she said.
“Everyone was so good in helping me,” Osborne said. “Great help, no matter what. Everyone is just so great.”
According to a post on the police department’s Facebook page, replacing the two stones will cost $10,000. The department is offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who may have information about how the tablets were damaged. Anyone with information is asked to call O’Fallon police at 618-624-4545.
According to the National Weather Service office in St. Louis, the thunderstorms that passed through the area Sunday evening packed wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour.