SAN JOSE -- San Jose State University police are looking for a vandal who tried to remove the "gold" medal from a campus statue of alum and Olympian Tommie Smith, officials said.
In addition to asking for help finding whoever was involved, campus officials want to make clear to any potential copycats that the sculpture, which has anchored the center of campus since 2005, is not composed of any precious metals that can be resold for a profit.
"It's either a vandalism or someone mistakenly believing it was something that can be recycled," said university spokeswoman Pat Lopes Harris.
Harris added police are reviewing security footage to try and identify the culprit, whose work surfaced Thursday morning when it was discovered the medal portion was missing and fragments were scattered at the foot of the Smith statue.
"Somebody tried to remove it but was unable to remove it whole," Harris said. "We're very concerned and we will do all we can to replace it."
There was no immediate estimate for how much it will cost to restore the medal, which adorned a likeness of Smith alongside SJSU track-and-field compatriot John Carlos.
The two won gold and bronze, respectively, in the 200 meters at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City and during the medal ceremony raised their fists in a Black Power salute in support of the burgeoning anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the civil rights movement in the United States.
Anyone with information about the vandalism can contact the University Police Department at 408-924-2222 or log onto www.sjsu.org/police.
Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.