LITTLE ROCK — A Van Buren man was arrested early Wednesday after he allegedly drove his car into the Ten Commandments monument at the Arkansas state Capitol, smashing the 6-foot-tall granite marker to pieces less than 24 hours after it was installed.
Michael Tate Reed II, 32, was taken into custody by a Capitol Police officer who witnessed the 4:47 a.m. incident, according to Chris Powell, spokesman for Secretary of State Mark Martin, whose duties include maintaining the Capitol grounds.
Powell said the vehicle that struck the monument was a 2016 Dodge Dart. Reed was taken to a local hospital and checked for injuries, then taken to the Pulaski County Detention Center, where he was booked on suspicion of defacing an object of public interest and first-degree criminal mischief, both felonies, and trespassing on state Capitol grounds, a misdemeanor.
He was being held Wednesday without bond pending an initial court appearance.
A video posted live to Reed’s Facebook page at the time of the incident appears to give a view from the vehicle approaching the monument but goes black at the moment of impact.
“Oh my goodness. Freedom!” a male voice says in the video.
In a video posted to Reed’s Facebook page just before that one, he faces the camera and says he believes in obeying the commands of God, “but one thing I do not support is the violation of our constitutional right to have the freedom that guarantees us separation of church and state, because no one religion should the government represent.”
Reed also says in that video he will be using his 2016 Dodge Dart and urges people who support him to contribute to a GoFundMe campaign to help him buy another car to replace it.
In October 2014, Reed was arrested after destroying a Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma state Capitol by driving a truck into it. He was admitted to a hospital for mental treatment and later released to the care of his mother in Fort Smith, according to the Tulsa World. He was not criminally prosecuted.
The Oklahoma monument was replaced, but last year it was removed after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that it violated the state’s constitution.
Reed has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, the Tulsa World has reported. The paper said he also threatened President Barack Obama, set money on fire and spit on pictures in a federal building.
In March 2105, Reed wrote in a letter to the Tulsa World that psychotic breaks had caused him to hear voices that said meat was infected with the spirit of Michael Jackson, that he should follow Satan, that Gwyneth Paltrow was Satan’s priestess and that he would be taken up by a UFO and given a new body.
Reed said in the letter that he acted in obedience to the voices and that he was sorry for what he had done.
In 2015, the Arkansas Legislature and Gov. Asa Hutchinson approved legislation by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, requiring the state to allow a Ten Commandments monument to be installed on Capitol grounds at private expense.
The American Heritage and History Foundation, which Rapert founded, paid for the monument through a fund drive that raised over $26,000. The monument was installed Tuesday morning.
In a news conference Wednesday at the Capitol, Rapert said his first reaction to the monument’s destruction was “great disappointment for the people of Arkansas.”
Rapert said the foundation has already ordered a replacement Ten Commandments monument. The nonprofit is accepting donations, but it also will investigate whether Reed has an auto insurance policy that could be required to pay for the damage, Rapert said.
Rapert said that if Reed is mentally ill, he hopes he will get help, but if not, he said Reed should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
“I do question that when a person actually plans out what they’re going to do and they actually get in a vehicle and live video themselves doing it. It appears that he knew exactly what he was doing at the time,” he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas said Tuesday it would file a lawsuit alleging that the monument violated the First Amendment prohibition against government endorsement of religion. Rapert said Wednesday that groups opposed to the monument and the news media have said or printed inflammatory statements and questioned whether they bear some “culpability.”
“You can’t light a fuse and walk away and say you’re not responsible for the explosion,” he said.