CHINATOWN — The intrigue surrounding the vandalism of decorative lions has deepened, with local leaders increasing the reward they're offering to tipsters to find the culprit.
The police "are back to ground zero and the case is still open," said Anita Luk, executive director of the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago, 238 W. 23rd St.
The lions were given to the Chinatown museum by the Chinese government last year as a gesture of goodwill for the neighborhood's centennial celebration.
Surveillance video from March 2 shows a man trudging through the snow and hammering away at the fangs of the hand-carved decorative lions.
The cost to replace the teeth has been pegged at more than $6,800.
The lions, fashioned from a single chunk of blue stone in China's Fujian Province, are meant to serve as a symbol to protect the good fortune of the buildings and homes where they are positioned.
Museum President Soon Lon Moy said the guardian statues, perched outside the museum's front entrance, have been hailed as the "most exquisite pair of decorative lions in the Midwest."
Luk and others say the man's motivation for inflicting the damage is unclear. It's possible, they said, the vandal was retaliating against the lions' symbolic power by removing their teeth.
"It's an attack on the whole community," Luk said.
The reward leading to an arrest and conviction of the vandal has been increased to $2,500, up from $1,000.
Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago at 312-949-1000.