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1 man charged with stealing police rifle, other with taking the head of Hans Christian Heg, during protests

1 man charged with stealing police rifle, other with taking the head of Hans Christian Heg, during protests

Heg pedestal

An empty pedestal where the statue of famed abolitionist Col. Hans Christian Heg stood. Protesters also assaulted a state senator and damaged the state Capitol on June 23 after the arrest of a Black activist earlier in the day.

Two men were charged Friday for their alleged roles in separate incidents on different nights of protest in Downtown Madison last summer — one for allegedly stealing the still-missing head of the Col. Hans Christian Heg statue, the other for the theft of a police rifle.

A criminal complaint charged Rodney A. Clendening, 34, of Beloit, with felony theft after police said they identified him as the driver of a car into which the head of the abolitionist statue was placed on June 23, after a group of people, using another vehicle to assist them, pulled down the statue of Heg during a destructive night Downtown.

Another statue, “Forward,” was also toppled the same night.

In an unrelated case, Denzel A. Jackson Jr., 21, of Madison, was charged with stealing an AR-15 rifle from a Madison police squad car as it was battered, spray-painted and ultimately set ablaze on May 30 just off State Street, the first night of protests over the police custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Jackson was also charged with felony criminal damage to property.

An arrest warrant was issued Friday for Jackson. Clendening is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 19.

Statue toppled

According to the complaint against Clendening:

After the Heg statue was pulled down it was missing a leg and its head. Most of the statue was found in Lake Monona. Using footage from a city street camera, police saw a black Ford Crown Victoria with Texas license plates stopped on the Square near East Main and South Pinckney streets. The car moved to allow a Nissan Murano, believed by police to have been used to pull down the Heg statue, pass by into the street.

Rodney Clendening


The driver got out of the Ford and was recognized by a Madison police officer as Clendening. He walked toward the Heg plinth, just out of the camera’s view, and came back into view alongside two other men who were carrying Heg’s head. One of the men put the head into the trunk of the Ford.

After the trunk was closed, Clendening went back to the driver’s seat and drove off. The car was seen a short time later on video footage at John Nolen Drive and East Wilson Street. A man who appeared to be Clendening got out and ran toward South Blair and East Wilson streets. A short time later, he was seen standing near a man police say was the driver of the Nissan used to pull down the Heg statue.

The cost of recasting a head for the Heg statue and attaching it is estimated at $51,600. The Heg and “Forward” statues are expected to be reinstalled on the Capitol grounds by the middle of this year.

State Department of Administration media contacts did not respond to a message asking whether the Capitol police have talked to Clendening about the location of the missing head.

Rifle stolen

The complaint against Jackson states:

Police received video footage from a man who was Downtown on May 30, which he had posted on Facebook. According to the man’s videos and others found by police, some of the car’s windows were broken out and people in the crowd noticed the guns in the squad car. Jackson is seen approaching the driver’s side, where the front window is also broken, and later standing by another unidentified man who is holding an AR-15 taken from the car.

Jackson is also seen on the passenger side of the car, leaning in and prying at the locking mechanism that held the rifle in the car until he was able to free it. With the rifle, he then headed down Gorham Street toward Broom Street.

At one point, in another video police viewed, another person is holding the rifle taking selfies, and Jackson also put his hands on the gun and said into the camera, “I’m the one who got the gun. Congratulations to me.”

The rifle was recovered later.

Jackson was identified by a Sun Prairie police officer in October after pictures of the unrest were circulated among police departments. Viewing Jackson’s Facebook page, a Madison police detective found videos of Jackson talking angrily about the death of George Floyd and about robbing banks and jewelry stores. He also added he is worried the police are looking for him.

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