Decapitated head of Junipero Serra statue found during low tide

FILE - In this May 6, 2015 file photo, a painting of Rev. Junipero Serra is seen above his grave inside the basilica at the Carmel Mission in Carmel, Calif. Pope Francis’ apology for the Roman Catholic Church’s crimes against indigenous peoples has not softened opposition among some California Native Americans to his decision to canonize 18th-century Franciscan missionary Junipero Serra, extolled by the Vatican as a great evangelizer, but denounced by some tribal officials as a destroyer of Native culture.(David Royal/The Monterey County Herald via AP, File)

MONTEREY (BCN) — A young girl found the decapitated head of a Junipero Serra statue during a low tide Saturday afternoon off the coast of Monterey, a Monterey police sergeant said.

Officers responded at about 3:30 p.m. to a report of the found statue head, said Monterey police Sgt. Mickey Roobash.

Roobash said the girl was wading in the shallow water near the Coast Guard Pier when she spotted the stone head.

The head of the Roman Catholic missionary was lobbed off a statue in the lower Presidio of Monterey in October 2015, Roobash said, following Pope Francis’ canonization of Serra on Sept. 23.

He said it was found “virtually across the street” from the entrance to the presidio where the statue stands.

The incident followed another act of vandalism against a Serra statue at San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission at 3080 Rio Road in Carmel-by-the-Sea on Sept. 26 or 27, according to police.

In November, Santa Cruz police officers responded to a report of vandalism to a Serra statue at Santa Cruz Mission, located on School Street between High and Mission streets. Police said the vandals splattered red paint on the mission’s front wooden doors and spray-painted a side wall with the message, “Serra St. of Genocide.”

Several Native American groups had protested the canonization of Serra, who they said killed and enslaved thousands of indigenous Americans during the founding of California’s missions.

The statue head from Monterey is currently being held as evidence, Roobash said. No suspects have been identified, but officers are investigating the incident.

Roobash said it was too early to say whether the head would be reattached to the statue any time soon.

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