The Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Ore., had an unexpected — and unwelcome — early morning guest March 19 when a man broke into the facility.
According to Captain Dennis Marks of the McMinnville Police Department, 19-year-old Gerald Lahey, a transient, smashed a window in the rear of the museum to gain access to the building. The break-in happened before dawn when there was no one at the facility. Lahey was wearing a World War II uniform that he had stolen from a display case when an employee spotted him before the museum opened.
“It was early in the morning when a female staff member came in and saw him lying under one of the airplanes,” Marks said. “She asked him what he was doing there and he then took off running out of the building, pulling the fire alarm as he ran. He ran around the building where another employee, a male, was walking in. He followed that man into the building. When the employee asked what he was doing there, Lahey punched the employee several times. The female employee heard the commotion and tried to help and was bitten for her trouble.”
Lahey was taken into custody when the fire department and police department arrived.
Damage to the museum included several broken windows, a smashed model, a damaged painting and a smashed large-screen TV. It was determined that Lahey had climbed into several aircraft, including a Huey and the B-17.
“There were some bloodstains in the aircraft because apparently he cut himself on the glass,” said Nicole Wahlberg, a museum spokeswoman.
Wahlberg noted that the stolen uniform was returned to the museum after Lahey was taken to jail and that the bloodstains are being removed.
As this issue was going to press, museum officials were still calculating the cost of the damage.
Lahey faces charges of burglary, robbery and criminal mischief. The day before the break-in, another law enforcement agency cited Lahey for reckless driving after an accident on a local highway.
The Evergreen Aviation Museum is the home of Howard Hughes HK-1, also known as the Spruce Goose. Just days after the break-in, the museum celebrated the opening of its IMAX theater.
“The theater is in a brand new building next to the museum,” Wahlberg said. “The first movies we are showing there is ‘Fighter Pilot’ about a kid who goes to Operation Redflag and learns about teamwork. We are also showing ‘Magnificent Desolation,’ which is about walking on the moon.”
These films will be showing through May.
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