OCEAN CITY — An Ocean City man was arrested on theft and malicious destruction of property charges this week after swiping a large concrete lion from the front of a downtown hotel and defacing the sculpture.
Around 2:15 a.m. on Monday, Ocean City Police responded to a residence on 7th Street and Edgewater Ave. for a reported noise violation. As the officers were walking up the steps to the apartment unit, they observed a four-foot tall white ornate statue sitting in the middle of the living room. The Colonel Arms Luxury Suites owner had reported the large, heavy statue missing a day earlier after noticing it had been taken around 11:30 a.m. on July 6.
The officers approached the front door of the unit and asked for the identification of the individuals on the lease to begin processing the noise complaint. The officers also told the occupants they wanted to know how and where the stolen lion statue arrived at their unit and who was responsible. The tenants told police they had a party the night before and a couple of intoxicated guests had brought the lion to their apartment.
At that point, an individual, later identified as Sadiq Sola-Rufai, 25, of Ocean City, told the officers he was about to return the lion just before police arrived. The officers observed the lion statue in the living room between a couch and a chair. It had a red bandana on its head and its eyes had been colored red and green with a marker. There were also various items of clothing piled around its base.
The officers interviewed Sola-Rufai, who admitted he and another unidentified male had been drinking the night before and swiped the lion after being urged to do so by other individuals at the party.
“A couple of the kids nearby had dared me to do it,” said Sola-Rufai in his written statement to the police about the incident. “I was pretty intoxicated, so I proceeded to carry the lion down the street. I would like the owner to know I did intend on returning it today and I am sorry about the commotion.”
Sola-Rufia was arrested and charged with theft and malicious destruction of property, the latter because the statue’s eyes had been colored with markers and could not be cleaned off. The statue was valued at roughly $10,000 by the owner, who told police when she purchased the property, she had to pay $10,000 to keep the lion. The lion was returned to the owner and placed back from whence it was taken.
Meanwhile, OCPD officers also questioned Sola-Rufia about another smaller lion statue that had been reported stolen from the front yard of a residence nearby. The statue’s owner had last seen the two-foot lion statue early Saturday morning. When questioned about that lion statue, Sola-Rufia admitted taking it, but told police he had since returned it. However, the officers contacted the owner and were told the statue had not been returned.
When questioned, occupants of the residence at the original noise complaint all told police they had seen Sola-Rufia with the statue during the party the night before. That smaller statue was valued at $400. It had not been returned at the time of the investigation.