Michigan GOP: Trump sign stolen from headquarters

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Political battles are par for the course in election season, but the Michigan Republican Party says an apparent Donald Trump opponent crossed the line.

Officials filed a complaint Wednesday with the Lansing Police Department after a young woman cut down and stole a large Trump presidential campaign sign directly outside the state party headquarters in Lansing, spokeswoman Sarah Anderson told The Detroit News.

Public information officer Robert Merritt confirmed the Lansing Police Department is investigating the alleged larceny, noting the GOP said the sign is worth upward of $250. The suspect’s motivations are unclear.

The alleged theft occurred in broad daylight at around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to Anderson, who said she spotted the woman from an office window and confronted her in the act. The woman continued putting the 4-by-8 foot sign in her car and left.

“While there’s certainly a lot of people passionate about this election, I don’t think we can let people get away with stealing yard signs or damaging property,” Anderson said. “I don’t think that’s an acceptable form of protest.”

Anderson told the woman she was taking photos with her cell phone and had called police. The woman said “OK,” Anderson recounted, and finished the deed.

“She peeled out of there pretty quickly,” Anderson said.

The suspect is believed to be a white female in her early to mid-20s, around 5-foot-3, with a thin build, Merritt said. She had straight shoulder-length hair that was dyed bright blue and drove a black, late-model Lexus.

Anderson said surveillance cameras show the woman entering the Michigan Republican Party parking lot and rearranging items in her car before pulling out to the street and taking the sign.

That parking lot footage does not appear sharp enough for police to read the suspect’s license plate and did not show the theft, Anderson said, but she took a cell phone video as the woman drove off that authorities may be able to use.

While the Michigan GOP is asking police to pursue the case, Anderson said it’s not necessarily trying to throw the book at the suspect.

“I’m not interested in ruining a young person’s life” by saddling her with a misdemeanor larceny conviction, Anderson said. “If she were to apologize, I have a sneaking suspicion, we would let it go.”

Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon said he does not condone sign theft but suggested the alleged crime may have been perpetrated by one of the “many” Republicans disgruntled with their party’s nominee.

“We don’t encourage anybody stealing signs,” Dillon said. “This happens every election cycle. There’s people out there doing crazy stuff.”

Merritt said allegations of campaign sign theft have been relatively rare in the five years he has worked for Lansing police. The department tends to get calls closer to Election Day, he said, but those picking up signs tend to be clean-up crews aligned with the same party as the candidate.

Trump is battling Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for Michigan votes. Third-party candidates include Libertarian hopeful Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

The Michigan GOP used the alleged theft in a recent fundraising pitch, telling supporters it is committed to ensuring that “for every yard sign that goes missing, we will put two more out in its place, but we need your help to make that happen.”

joosting@detroitnews.com