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800-pound hammer stolen from Healdsburg’s community center

Healdsburg police are trying to nail the thieves who sneaked off with an 800-pound hammer.

The massive art piece disappeared from the Healdsburg Community Center lawn some time Friday night or Saturday morning, apparently with no witnesses. No one reported seeing it trailered through town.

“We have no leads at this point. We’ve checked a lot of different locations,” Healdsburg Police Officer Darryl Erkel said Tuesday. “We initially thought it might have been a high school prank.”

It’s not only a case of whodunit, but also how?

The hammer measures 21 feet long, while the metal head is 6 feet tall, Healdsburg artist Doug Unkrey said.

“They’d need at least a flatbed trailer with a winch, or about eight people,” said Unkrey, who created the piece, using part of a redwood tree for the handle.

“Why would you take this thing?” he added. “Where are you going to put it?”

The heist obviously was planned, police said. Officers learned of the hammer’s disappearance Saturday morning when an employee arrived at the center on the north end of Healdsburg Avenue and realized the lawn was empty.

“They uprooted the stand it was on and dragged it across the parking lot and probably put it on a truck using a crane,” Erkel said. “Or a group picked it up.”

Officers initially checked to see if the hammer had been moved to a new location for display, as it wasn’t a permanent art piece. That didn’t check out.

Police also looked into whether it was teen hijinks, but that also didn’t produce a lead, Erkel said.

Surveillance video so far hasn’t helped.

Unkrey made the large-scale ball-peen hammer last year, after seeing a piece of metal and how it resembled a hammerhead. He got the redwood tree from a friend with a tree service business.

The uninsured artwork was estimated to be worth $15,000. It had been at the center about a year, on loan from Unkrey as part of a temporary exhibit sponsored by the Voigt Family Sculpture Foundation.

The foundation aims to make art more accessible, putting pieces in public spaces such as the community center. The hammer symbolized “building community strength,” said Judy Voigt, foundation founder.

“A lot of people really liked it. They’d stop and take pictures with it,” she said. “It was a lot of fun.”

She called the theft discouraging and disappointing.

“We have for the last 12 years now put art in publicly accessible places throughout Sonoma County, 100 pieces, maybe more,” Voigt said. “This is the first time we’ve had anything like this happen.”

Unkrey said Tuesday he wasn’t worried about the piece.

“All artwork is temporary anyway,” he said.

“It’s kind of amusing to me, that somebody would actually put all this energy into it - that they’d want it that much they would actually steal it,” Unkrey said. “It’s kind of nuts.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Officer Erkel at 707-431-3377.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707-521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.

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