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story.lead_photo.caption The Sentinel-Record/Grace Brown NOT FORGOTTEN: A gifted wreath from Johnson Floral Co. sits in Al Capone's usual seat outside of the Ohio Club in downtown Hot Springs after an alleged act of criminal mischief in March 2018. - Photo by Grace Brown

Was it a case of mischief, spring fever, or something else? Either way, Al Capone is missing from downtown.

Its owner says the nearly decade-old iconic statue of gangster Al Capone seated outside of the Ohio Club in downtown Hot Springs was damaged early Saturday morning in an apparent act of criminal mischief.

Ohio Club owner and Scarface rescuer Mike Pettey places the majority of the blame for the incident on the latter: a case of spring fever.

"We were extremely busy. It's been just a great week here in Hot Springs. It was the perfect storm because everybody had been cooped up with the rain, and so we had an awesome forecast, and we had the track with all the big races going on. We had the St. Patrick's Day celebrations going on. This was Saturday night, and everybody hit town. So my doorman was overwhelmed, and my hostess was overwhelmed, and it was just almost impossible to keep an eye on everybody," said Pettey.

He was alerted to the mischief between midnight and 12:30 a.m. by a customer.

"Two of them started carrying it, then it fell and the one guy went ahead and ran. Then the other guy picked it up and carried it on. So I chased them down and got Al away from them. I was able to get him and I brought him back down to the club. And that's when I discovered that he was hurt pretty bad," said Pettey.

Mason Potter Jr., 24, and Andrew Vaughn, 25, both of Missouri, were arrested, Hot Springs Cpl. Joey Williams told Arkansas Online. The pair face charges of public intoxication and criminal mischief, he said. Neither were listed in a Garland County jail roster on Monday.

The entire incident was caught on video by a diner on one of the upper floors of the club, as well as the establishment's own security cameras.

"I've got mine, and then I've also got it from a different angle and it shows them dropping him and everything else and causing the damage."

The harm to the infamous gangster was extensive, with a broken fedora hat brim, arm, and leg, said Pettey.

"I hated to do it. It could've just been a joke at that point. No harm, no foul. But he's got damage. So I wanted somebody to be responsible for that. So I went ahead and called the police."

The statue was not bolted in its chair, said Pettey, to allow for easier removal and storage by employees each night while closing the Ohio Club.

"He's not as heavy as you would think. We'll have to come up with some more inventive ways to secure him a little bit better."

Pettey received an estimate of $3,500 and 30 hours of labor to fully repair Capone.

"These are structural repairs. So it takes a lot to do them. So they're looking at a pretty healthy bill. And this was a criminal thing, so hopefully, I can recover that through the court system when they charge these guys."

Though the statue has had regular maintenance and repairs previously, this is the first substantial damage the figure has sustained through an incident of this manner, according to Pettey.

"It doesn't happen much, thank goodness. And thank goodness for videotape nowadays," he said.

Petty said both he and the statue have received support from the community since the incident.

While accompanying his wife and parade queen Dona Pettey during the First Ever 16th Annual World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade on Sunday, he received many comments on the subject.

"The entire length of the parade, from start to finish I had well-wishers thanking me for being able to get Al back and chasing him down and getting him. And then wishing him well," he said.

"It really struck me when people said, 'Man, that was an icon.' So it really has become an icon. To me, being 57, it doesn't seem like a long amount of time. But just think of all the people that have moved here in the last nine years. That's all they've ever known is him sitting out front."

Pettey said that in addition to kind words, the gangster has also received get-well-soon cards, as well as a wreath from Johnson Floral Co. that reads "GET WELL SOON AL."

Fans of the downtown mainstay need not be worried, as Pettey expects Al to make a full recovery in three to four months at an "undisclosed location."

Pettey said he hopes to use the incident as a catalyst to begin a push to make a series of bronze statues sitting on benches throughout the downtown area of figures such as Al Capone, Babe Ruth and Tony Bennett.

He estimates Al Capone is included in thousands of photos on days that see pleasant weather, and feels that more statues could result in more visitors to Hot Springs.

"I'd like to get with the city, and as much attention as he is attracted, I'd like to have a big push to get some bronze statues made like that. And I would like to see a series of bronze statues all up and down the sidewalk from one end of town to the other because we've got so many notables," said Pettey.

For the moment, the most "notable" of all is still Big Al, though.

"It's literally to the point where I'm almost having to hire a publicist for him. I've spent two or three hours a day talking to news outlets about him," said Pettey.

The club owner and statue guardian does not see this as a negative side of the situation surrounding the incident, but rather an unexpectedly positive twist to the events.

"It's the lemonade thing. I'm trying to make lemonade the best I can. It is a statue, after all. We're just doing the best we can," said Pettey.

Local on 03/19/2019

Print Headline: Capone statue damaged in act of criminal mischief

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