Pawtucket teacher among those arrested for vandalizing boarded-up Columbus statue

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Three people were arrested early Saturday morning for vandalizing the Christopher Columbus statue in Providence.

One of the suspects arrested, Derrick Garforth, is listed on the website for Jenks Middle School in Pawtucket as a social studies teacher. Pawtucket Superintendent Cheryl McWilliams told WPRI 12 on Saturday afternoon that Garforth is out on leave pending an investigation.

“I have just learned about this and the Pawtucket School Department is investigating it,” McWilliams said in an email.

Late Friday night, police said they were monitoring the area of Reservoir at Elmwood Avenue, near the statue of Christopher Columbus, due to information that developed earlier in the evening. The statue itself had recently been boarded up and fenced in due to the possibility of vandals defacing or destroying it.

Just before 1:30 a.m. Saturday, officers said they noticed a vehicle with three people inside, driving around the area with its lights off.

About 10 minutes later, officers said they then saw a man and a woman running towards Columbus Square, carrying something in their hands. When the suspects got closer, they threw the objects toward the area of the statue then ran from the scene, according to police.

White paint could be seen on the boards covering the statue on Saturday.

Officers followed the suspects and were able to stop them on Ontario St. They were later identified as Derrick Garforth, 34, and Charlotte Whittingham, 28.

The officers said they also saw the car the suspects were believed to be in driving slowly on Ontario Street toward Melrose Street.

Police said officers stopped the vehicle and while speaking with the driver, identified as Mackenzie Innis, 26, they saw two open containers of white and purple paint, several rubber gloves, a box of rubber gloves, and several masks inside the car. Innis was then also taken into custody.

When detectives went back to the scene, the paint colors matched what was found inside the suspect’s vehicle.

All three suspects were charged with desecration of a grave or monument and conspiracy. They were arraigned at the Public Safety Complex and released.

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