“Freedom!” he shouted at the moment of impact.
A Capitol police officer was on patrol at the time and saw Mr. Reed drive into the monument, Mr. Powell said. Mr. Reed did not resist arrest and was taken to a hospital, he said. He was being held in jail on Wednesday on charges of criminal mischief and trespassing, according to inmate records.
“We have been in the process over two years” to install the monument, Mr. Powell said. There were hotlines, public comments meetings and approval procedures. Finally, the Arkansas State legislature passed Act 1231 in 2015 authorizing the construction of the monument on the Capitol grounds.
“And so now, here we are,” said Mr. Powell on Wednesday after its destruction, adding that workers had already picked up the pieces of the shattered memorial and loaded them into a truck. “Our folks are trying to figure out what the next steps will be, as far as assessing the damage and any future replacement.”
It was not immediately clear what Mr. Reed’s motive was, although he spoke in a Facebook video about the separation of church and state, or whether he had a lawyer on Wednesday. But it was not Mr. Reed’s first time to set his sights on the set of biblical laws referring to ethics and worship.
Mark Opgrande, a spokesman for the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, said Mr. Reed was charged with destroying a similar monument in Oklahoma in 2014. “He was booked in here for allegedly driving into the Ten Commandments monument at the Capitol,” he said by telephone, when asked about an Associated Press report. An Oklahoma county district court document shows that Mr. Reed was not formally charged but was transferred to a state hospital.
Crystal Tucker, Mr. Reed’s mother, said in an email that he has previously been given a schizoaffective diagnosis. “My heart is breaking for not only my family but for every family going through the pain of mental illness and having nowhere to turn,” she wrote.
Other religious monuments in the United States erected on government grounds have attracted scrutiny.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 confirmed the display of a Ten Commandments monument on Texas Capitol grounds was constitutional after a challenge that questioned whether such displays violated the First Amendment’s prohibition against an official “establishment” of religion.
Federal courts over the years have either upheld similar monuments as a symbol of the country’s devotion to its legal heritage, or ordered them removed as an illicit message of religious endorsement.
Rita Sklar, executive director of the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said on Tuesday the group was preparing to file a lawsuit over the Arkansas monument. “It’s a visible symbol of government endorsement of one particular religious belief over others, or over no belief,” Ms. Sklar said in a Reuters report.
Comments on the Twitter timelines of the Arkansas Senate and of Senator Jason Rapert, a Republican co-sponsor of the bill authorizing it, showed support or questioned whether other beliefs could be given the same kind of approval. Mr. Powell said others have tried to erect monuments: A Hindu group did not complete the application process, and a group of atheists and Satanists had also sought approvals, but those had not been acted upon by the legislature.
Senator Rapert said monuments of the Ten Commandments and a sculpture of Moses could even be found at the United States Supreme Court and the nation’s Capitol. “So if it’s good enough for the United States Capitol, it’s good enough for the state of Arkansas,” he said in a message on Facebook.
“We did not have a monument that actually honored the historical moral foundation of law” in Arkansas, he said.
The monument was funded from private donations from “all over the country” through the nonprofit American History and Heritage Foundation, he said, “We are ready to start putting these in everywhere across the country that wants one.”
On Wednesday, Senator Rapert said in a news conference on Facebook live that the monument would be rebuilt.
“We are not going to let the insanity become the norm,” he said.
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