One suspect arrested for involvement in toppling the Robert E. Lee bust

A Naples man was arrested Friday for his involvement in the knocking down and damaging of the Robert E. Lee bust in downtown Fort Myers.

The suspect, David Howes, 46, faces a charge of Criminal Mischief.

On March 12 around 8:30 a.m., Fort Myers Police Department responded to a complaint of criminal mischief. After arriving at 2427 Bay St. in downtown Fort Myers, officers observed the bust of Robert E. Lee removed from its pedestal, laying on the ground.

Photo of the toppled Robert E. Lee bust. (Credit: WINK News)
Photo of the toppled Robert E. Lee bust. (Credit: WINK News)

Video footage of the incident showed three men pushing over the statue and vandalizing it for several minutes, the Circuit Court of the 20th Judicial Circuit warrant to arrest states. The men left the area, only to return later to continue vandalizing it.

A nearby camera recorded the suspects exiting a Nissan Rogue and walking towards the statue, which was on the ground. The camera captured the registration of the Nissan. Officers found it registered to Howes and a woman.

Detectives suspect Howes provided transportation to the scene while a second man committed the crime of criminal mischief, the warrant to arrest states. Howes then provided transportation from the scene. Later on, Howes took film or photographs of the second man manipulating the statue.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, the caretakers of the Robert E. Lee bust, estimated $2,662.50 in damages. Members Thomas Fyock and Robert Gates said they wanted to press charges.

“You’re destroying property, and that’s criminal behavior,” Fyock said. “That shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere.”

James Muwakkil, president of NAACP Lee County, spoke to us and did not support the actions of the suspect. He also maintains the NAACP does not support the statue’s continued presence in public.

“Sounds more criminal than political,” Muwakkil said. “The NAACP position still reminds that the statue should come down. We believe at some point it still will. And it should be moved to the museum.”

While there were two other men suspected to be involved in the case, the warrant to arrest states, they have not been identified at this time.

Howes was released on bail Saturday, May 4.

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