Police are searching for thieves who were caught on surveillance video stealing a cannon from the Veteran's Hall in Richmond, California.
Investigators speculate the thieves may intend to melt the metal down, but many said the historic weapon is worth way more than the brass and iron it is made of.
"This is part of our American history and this is stealing from our culture," Richmond Police Lt. Felix Tan said. "It's stealing from the men and women who've fought for our country and our freedom."
The theft has hurt 79-year-old veteran Art Hunt, who said the World War I-era cannon has stood outside Richmond's Veteran Hall for as long as he can remember.
"People have died for this country. You just don't steal from them. That's not right," Hunt said. "You're stealing something you don't even know what it represented. This hurts."
Surveillance camera capture the theft, which took place May 1 as vendors set up the city's Cinco de Mayo festival. Video shows the crooks pulling into the lot, cutting the cannon's chain and towed the 1-ton brass and iron weapon away. The theft took place in under a minute.
"It was literally on the run and we did not receive any call of anybody driving our city limits with a cannon in tow," Tan said.
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Hunt said the cannon is priceless and is a symbol of freedom for those who have called the Veteran's Hall home, including the nation's first all-black tank battalion.
"It's a precious item to us," Hunt said. "It's worth more than gold to this building. It's worth more than gold."