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Man breaks into Dallas art museum, damages ancient artifacts, police say

A sign for the Dallas Museum of Art.
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A man broke into the Dallas Museum of Art, shattered glass display cases with a metal stool and damaged several ancient artifacts, according to museum officials and police.

Museum officials said the man, identified by authorities as 21-year-old Brian Hernandez, broke into the museum after hours on Wednesday night, entered exhibits and smashed art, including three ancient Greek artifacts and a Native American contemporary ceramic piece. Those four pieces were “seriously damaged” in addition to about a dozen smaller pieces that sustained minor damage, officials said in a statement on Friday to The Washington Post.

The museum is working with insurers and curators to determine what can be restored and the cost of the damages, but officials said the total could be much less than the $5 million price tag that was initially reported.

Museum director Agustin Arteaga said in a statement that the “entire collection is invaluable in the shared experiences and inspiration it provides to our visitors.”

Hernandez’s public defender did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon.

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Authorities said surveillance footage showed a man wearing dark clothes walk toward the entrance Wednesday night with a metal chair in his hand. Moments later, he was seen entering the building, where he immediately began throwing items on the ground, the police said.

He proceeded to enter multiple exhibits, allegedly destroying property — at one point, returning to the entrance to retrieve a metal stool that he used to smash numerous glass display cases, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

In an ancient exhibit, he allegedly shattered a display case containing two Greek artifacts — a black-figure panel amphora, a sixth-century B.C. pot, as well as a red-figure pyxis and lid dating back to the fifth century B.C., museum officials said. Officials said a second smashed case contained a black-figure kylix, an ancient Greek bowl. All three items were badly damaged, the officials said.

Near the end of the rampage, he allegedly picked up a hand sanitizer stand and used it to break another case, then reached inside and grabbed a Native American Batah Kuhuh Alligator Gar Fish Effigy Bottle statue, smashing it on the ground, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

A witness told police that when Hernandez was found by security and asked what he was doing, he said he “got mad at his girl” so he broke into the museum and started destroying property, the arrest warrant affidavit stated.

Museum officials said he was not armed and no one was injured.

“This was an isolated incident perpetrated by one individual acting alone, whose intent was not theft of art or any objects on view at the Museum. However, some works of art were damaged, and we are still in the process of assessing the extent of the damages. While we are devastated by this incident, we are grateful that no one was harmed. The safety of our staff and visitors, along with the care and protection of the art in our stewardship, are our utmost priorities,” the museum said in a statement.

Hernandez was arrested without incident on a charge of criminal mischief of more than or equal to $300,000, police said. He is being held on $100,000 bond, jail records show.

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