CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- A Christoper Columbus statue in the South Bay was found vandalized Sunday morning, with red paint splashed on the figure's head and the word "genocide" scrawled in red spray paint along its base.
Viewer Mel McBroome spotted the vandalism at Discovery Park in Rancho Del Rey, a neighborhood of Chula Vista, and sent FOX 5 a photo.
Following that tip, a news photographer arrived at the park just as a crew showed up to clean off the paint, first using a pressure washer and then scrubbing with a brush and cleaning solution. City crews mentioned that people have tried to saw off the legs and arms of the Columbus figure in the past, but police did not confirm any previous attacks.
Chula Vista Police Lt. Dan Peak said they first received calls about the graffiti around noon. Peak said in addition to the paint, a "very expensive" bronze plaque that sits below the statue was stolen. He told FOX 5 the extent of the damage and value of the figure likely raised the crime to a felony-level vandalism. "We believe it happened some time over the night," Peak added.
The statue was created in the 1990s by the sculptor Mario Zamora, according to the Smithsonian Institution's research system.
Columbus statues have been the target of similar vandalism elsewhere in the country, with vandals appearing to make a statement about the explorer and colonist's treatment of indigenous peoples by painting portions of his monument's a blood-like red or spray painting phrases. Other critics have called for the end of celebrating Columbus day, a move some major cities have already made.
Others, including Italian-American groups, have said the holiday remains an important part of Italian-American heritage and that Columbus remains a highly notable historical figure worthy of recognition.
Lt. Peak said there was no immediate information about who may have vandalized the statue. Anyone with tips for investigators was asked to call the Chula Vista Police Department or go through the department's anonymous tip line.