Austin Clay was identified as the man accused of taking a pickax to President Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, obliterating it. You can see photos of the damage throughout this story and a video of the vandal in action.
Jail records identify the Trump star suspect as Austin Mikel Clay. He is 24-years-old. Reaction to Clay’s arrest was mixed, with one man showing up to guard what’s left of the star while holding a Trump 2020 sign and others launching a GoFundMe page to help Clay meet bail. However, TMZ is reporting that James Otis – the last guy to take a pickax to Trump’s star – is planning to bail Clay out of jail and meet him.
The vandal struck on the morning of July 25, 2018, and he hid the pickax inside a guitar case, according to NBC 4. Trump earned his star on the Walk of Fame when he was on The Apprentice.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A Witness Asked the Man ‘What Did Donald Trump Do to You?’ & Clay Is Being Held on a Felony Charge
TMZ obtained the above video which allegedly shows Clay in action with the pickax.
Austin Clay is being held on $20,000 bail on a felony charge, according to jail records. He was booked on suspicion of vandalism. Here is the inmate record for Clay:
Clay, in an interview with TMZ, defended his actions and bragged that celebrities like Robert DeNiro have given him support. He told TMZ he was happy he took a pickax to the star and said he was motivated by the immigrant family separation issue.
Online records show Austin Mikel Clay, 24, with ties to Lincoln, California. A LinkedIn page for Austin Clay of Lincoln, California shows Clay worked as a package handler. However, authorities have yet to release the accused vandal’s hometown. Austin Mikel Clay was listed among Lincoln High School seniors in 2011. The previous year, Austin Clay was listed on the school’s honor roll.
Clay’s exact motives are not yet known. California voter registration requires a partial social security number to look up records. A Facebook page linked to Austin Clay in online records was deleted.
According to CNN, police said Clay didn’t reveal a motive to them.
NBC 4 found a witness to the incident named David Palmer, who says he told the man, “I’m like, ‘Why are you hitting that star? What did Donald Trump do to you?’ Then he went around the corner and I think he left.”
The call came into police around 3:33 a.m. Pictures showed that the pickax was left behind at the scene.
Other people were picking up pieces of the rubble as souvenirs. According to CBS Los Angeles, “graffiti was added to the destroyed star then covered with a chin-up bar just a few hours later.” Gregg Donovan decided to “stand guard over the star,” the television station reported. Donovan carried a Trump 2020 sign.
2. It’s Believed That Austin Clay Reported the Vandalism Himself, Reports Say
Austin Clay, whose hometown is not yet known, may have called the police – on himself.
“Multiple people — including police — tell me a man walked up with a guitar case and pulled out the pickaxe. Then, it’s believed, he called police himself to report it, but left the scene before they got here. Now, he’s nowhere to be found,” NBC LA reporter Jonathan Gonzalez wrote on Twitter.
According to Gonzalez, the suspect turned himself in to Beverly Hills police.
The president for the Chamber of Commerce that runs the Walk of Fame urged people to show respect for the law.
“The Hollywood Walk of Fame is an institution celebrating the positive contributions of the inductees,” said Leron Gubler, president and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, to The Press Enterprise. “When people are unhappy with one of our honorees, we would hope that they would project their anger in more positive ways than to vandalize a California State landmark. Our democracy is based on respect for the law. People can make a difference by voting and not destroying public property.”
3. Trump’s Hollywood Star Has Been Vandalized Before
Trump’s Hollywood star has been the target of vandals multiple times, according to The Hollywood Reporter, but this time it was completely destroyed.
In 2016, a man named James Otis was accused of also taking a pickax to the Trump star. TMZ reported that Otis considered himself “as a sort of modern-day Robin Hood” and wanted to auction off pieces of the star to help pay the legal defense costs of Trump’s sexual harassment and assault accusers.
Otis was sentenced to probation, community service and restitution. The star was also sprayed with red spray paint and, according to NBC Bay Area, an artist built a tiny wall around it to mimic Trump’s border wall proposals.
The Los Angeles Times says the vandalism has included dog poop being placed on the star and a swastika being painted on it.
4. Private Security Tried to Stop the Most Recent Vandal, Now Named as Austin Clay
Guards saw the vandalism unfold but weren’t able to catch the vandal.
According to the Los Angeles Times, private security guards in the area tried to stop the man but couldn’t “because they don’t have police powers.” Police told the newspaper the guards did the best they could under the circumstances.
Opinions about Austin Clay are divided on social media. Some are openly applauding him:
Others were critical. “So the star got busted up. Trump gets a shiny new one and Austin Clay gets a lifelong felony conviction. At age 24 he’s going to get really sick of telling this story every time he applies for a job sacking groceries,” wrote one man on Twitter.
5. The Suspect Told Officers ‘See You Soon’
Lt. Karen Leong, of the LAPD’s Hollywood Division, told The Los Angeles Times that the man “called police and advised he had vandalized Donald Trump’s star and basically called on himself and said, ‘See you soon.’”
He eventually walked into Beverly Hills police headquarters and turned himself in, the newspaper reported.
“I just seen a guy going to town on, I guess, the ground or whatever,” Patricia Cox said to CBS Los Angeles. “I didn’t know what was going on.