The gravesite of President Gerald Ford and Betty Ford were defaced on March 27. Police in Grand Rapids, Michigan spent the week looking for the suspects.
The 19-year-old suspect came forward on April 4 and apologized as well as returned the metallic letter he took from the site last week.
A Teenager Turned Himself In and Apologized
Teenager Chris Johnson brought the missing letter “e” to Grand Rapids police on April 4 after he learned police were looking for suspects. Replacing the letter cost The Gerald Ford Presidental Museum $400, according to a spokesperson.
Johnson and an unidentified woman were skateboarding on the memorial before they climbed the wall and sat where Johnson began spinning the plaque.
“I’m sorry it happened and I’m sorry I broke it,” Johnson told MLive/The Grand Rapids Press. “It wasn’t malicious. I didn’t know what it was and now I’m in the works of trying to fix things.”
Johnson said he did not know the memorial was a gravesite or that Ford was a former US President.
Johnson had Just Moved to Grand Rapids
Johnson, 19, said that he began to receive messages from people who recognized him after the camera surveillance video was shared by Grand Rapids police. The teenager had recently moved to Grand Rapids from Indiana. He says he thought the memorial was just part of the park.
The memorial reads “Lives Committed to God, Country and Love,” and Johnson took the “e” plaque from “Committed” after it broke off the wall while he spun it.
Geir Gundersen, a spokesperson for The Gerald Ford Presidental Museum, said “The staff is glad that the person who is responsible decided to bring it back and is cooperating with police,” said Geir Gundersen, a spokesperson for the museum. “We look forward to visitors returning to the museum and gravesite.”
The Gerald R. Ford and Betty B. Ford Burial Site is on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum at 303 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504-5353. It is open daily and free to the public. The adjacent museum features a permanent exhibit that allows visitors to explore the lives of President and Mrs. Ford, and also hosts temporary exhibits.
Ford was the first unelected president in US history. A Republican congressman from Michigan, Ford followed Nixon into office after having been appointed his vice president following the resignation of Spiro Agnew. Ford was succeeded by Jimmy Carter. The late US President died in 2006. His wife Betty died in 2011.