In the video, the Arkansas Capitol dome can be seen lit against the night sky as the Dodge Dart accelerates to 10, then 20 mph.
“Oh my goodness,” a man says as he flicks on the car’s lights. “Freedom!”
The vehicle speeds up the hill, and the last thing that comes into view before a crash is a large, newly installed monument.
Authorities say the man in the video is Michael Tate Reed, an alleged serial destroyer of Ten Commandments monuments.
He was arrested by state capitol police officers at the scene early Wednesday, according to Chris Powell, a spokesman for the Arkansas secretary of state. Reed is charged with criminal trespass, first-degree criminal mischief and defacing objects of public interest.
That object of public interest was a three-ton granite monument that had been installed less than 24 hours before its violent, pre-dawn demise on the southwest lawn of the state capitol in Little Rock.
Crews had cleaned up the crash site by late Wednesday morning and taken the broken pieces to storage, Powell said. Jason Rapert, an Arkansas state senator who led the movement to put up the monument, said a replacement has already been ordered, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
“This law will be fulfilled, and we will raise the funds to make sure it’s put back where it should be,” he told the newspaper.
Reed could not be reached for comment. Powell told The Washington Post he wasn’t sure whether Reed had been released from jail.
According to the Associated Press, a 2015 law required Arkansas to allow the Ten Commandments display near the capitol. But groups who argue for a strong separation of church and state have criticized the placement of a biblical statue on the grounds of the seat of the state’s government.
After plans for the Ten Commandments monument were announced, the satanic temple pushed for a competing statue of Baphomet, a goat-headed, angel-winged creature accompanied by two children smiling at it, the AP reported.
Other states have grappled with similar Ten Commandments controversies, including Oklahoma, which installed a 4,800-pound monument on its capitol grounds in 2012.
In 2014, Reed rammed a car into that monument, Powell said. But it was replaced and stood on the capitol grounds until the state Supreme Court ruled it had to be removed, according to The Washington Post’s Abby Phillip.
According to the Tulsa World, a judge ordered Reed to receive mental health treatment after that incident. He was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and released under an agreement that required him to continue treatment.
He sent a rambling letter to the newspaper apologizing and describing the voices in his head and his attempts to recover from mental health issues.
He also detailed one incident where voices told him to crash his car into other vehicles, but instead he wrecked on a highway median. In the past, he’s walked into federal buildings to spit on portraits, made threats against former president Barack Obama and set money on fire, according to the World.
Reed appears to allude to the Oklahoma toppling incident in a Facebook post before the Arkansas statue was rammed.
“I’m a firm believer that for our salvation we not only have faith in Jesus Christ, but we also obey the commands of God and that we confess Jesus as Lord,” he says in the post. “But one thing I do not support is the violation of our constitutional right to have the freedom that’s guaranteed to us, that guarantees us the separation of church and state, because no one religion should the government represent.”
Later, he says he’s “back at it again,” and asks for people to donate money to help repair his car.