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Catch of the day: Alarm thwarts IU fountain fish poachers

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – An alarm system helped campus police foil two possible attempts at stealing large bronze fish from Indiana University’s iconic Showalter Fountain during graduation weekend.

Officers were first called to the fountain on the Bloomington campus about 4 a.m. Sunday, IU police Lt. Craig Munroe said Monday. When the officers arrived, a group of about 75 people scattered, leaving one of the fish on the sidewalk, he said.

Police returned about an hour later to discover two students inside the fountain with another fish that had been removed from its support mount, Munroe said.

The fish, weighing hundreds of pounds, have long been a target of thieves. One has been missing since the 1987 NCAA basketball championship celebration and another that was cast as that one’s replacement was stolen in 2010 and returned to the university last month.

Sherry Rouse, the curator of campus art, said the fountain installed in front of the IU Auditorium in 1958 hasn’t typically been a target during graduation weekends.

“I can’t remember another graduation where we had it happen,” she told The Herald-Times. “Two fish in one night. The only time I remember that happening is Bobby Knight being fired.”

A 21-year-old student was arrested on felony theft and criminal mischief charges after admitting to officers that he and several friends tried to carry away the fish that was removed from the fountain, Munroe told The Associated Press.

Two 22-year-old students who officers found in the fountain during the second call were arrested on felony criminal mischief charges, he said.

Rouse said the fountain will have to be drained to put the fish back in place, with the damage possibly costing $5,000 to $10,000. She said she was glad to see the fountain’s alarm system is effective but that the vandalism of the sculpture’s parts bothered her.

“It’s not funny,” Rouse said. “It’s not a notch on your belt. They don’t need to be tossed around on the ground. We wear gloves when we handle them, and these guys drag them out and throw them down on the sidewalk.”

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