A tree planted in the street lawn along Walnut Street met an untimely end after two men stole it from its soil in the early hours of Thursday, Feb. 7.
Surveillance footage from a camera on the outside of the Oxford Municipal Building shows two men spending about ten minutes forcibly prying the tree out of the ground on the south side of 116 W. Walnut St. between 2:30 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. At one point, they ran around the side of the building to hide before re-emerging and renewing their efforts. Footage also shows a maroon four-door car that drove past and stopped by the two men several times.
“It [wasn’t] just a whim,” Oxford Police Department Lt. Lara Fening said. “I mean, they worked at this. At no point in time while they were there did they think better of it … and then what the heck were they going to do with the tree?”
Not much, it turned out.
After the tree was out of the ground, the men dragged it down Walnut Street a short distance before dropping it off on the porch of 9 W. Walnut St., at a house named Cheval Blanc.
The residents of the house found the tree on their porch the next morning and, at first, thought that a storm might have uprooted the tree and blown it onto their porch. When police questioned the residents later, they said they thought it might have been a prank, although they still do not know who might have done it.
The residents did not think much of it initially, since they live one block off High Street and have come to expect strange things from Uptown revelers. They said the tree was small, only about six feet tall; they figured that the two men probably just picked a random house to drop the tree at, or meant to leave it at another house.
Fening said the investigation is making progress, and that the culprits will have to pay to replace the tree, in addition to any fees and court costs. The charges on the police report are listed as criminal damaging and theft.
The tree in question was a Zelkova, a Japanese ornamental tree that can grow up to 60 feet tall. Fening said the one the men uprooted was only planted there about a year ago as part of the renovations to the Oxford Municipal Building at the corner of Walnut Street and College Avenue.
“The $550.00 tree was mortally wounded,” the Oxford Police Department wrote on their Facebook page. “R.I.P.”