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Homeless Jesus is stolen from New Life Evangelistic Center

DOWNTOWN WEST (AP) — Some persistent thieves stole a statue of Jesus as a homeless man sleeping on a bench.

The Rev. Larry Rice said the statue that was taken from outside the New Life Evangelistic Center at 1411 Locust Street was valued at about $33,000.

Rice and his organization were forced to the 24-hour shelter there in 2017 because of multiple and ongoing violations of safety and other ordinances. After the shelter closed, the group placed the statue outside the building.

Police arrested a man Tuesday night as he was trying to cut the sculpture away.

Three days later, two men cut the legs of the bench holding the statue right above the concrete. They fled Friday morning without taking the statue.

But Rice said that after New Life two trainees lifted the statue back onto the sidewalk outside the closed homeless shelter on Friday, thieves returned in a vehicle and took the statue while staffers were inside the building.

Rice said he was worried that the 400-pound bronze statue would be cut into pieces and sold for scrap. New Life is offering a $1,000 reward if the statue is returned intact.

“No questions asked,” Rice said. “Just return the statue.” staff contributed to this report.

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