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Some replicas extinct after Orton Hall vandalism

Thomas Bradley / Campus editor

Ohio State Police arrested a student carrying more than $2,000 worth of prehistoric replicas from an on-campus museum, shortly after the student broke into Orton Hall Sunday morning.

Nathaniel Harger, a 19-year-old student majoring in biology, allegedly broke into the Orton Geological Museum and attempted to steal several valuable items on display in the museum, when University police arrested him.

After the crime, but still before the sun came up, University police called Dale Gnidovec, collections manager and curator at the museum. Gnidovec said the police described Harger as violent.

“They had to pull their guns,” Gnidovec said. “He actually tore off one of the claws of the (sloth) skeleton there and used that as a knife to defend himself.”

University police said Harger was in possession of a claw, but denied that he used it as a weapon against officers.

University police responded to multiple alarms from Orton Hall, located on the south side The Oval, just after 2:30 a.m. Sunday. After conducting a search of the building, officers located Harger with $2,090 worth of stolen property in his possession.

Deputy Chief Richard Morman of University police said Harger was intoxicated and resisted arrest.

“(The officers) ordered him down, and he got down on the ground,” Morman said. “They were going to secure him, handcuff him. And he jumped up and took off running. One of our officers tackled him.”

Harger was detained and charged with breaking and entering, vandalism, theft and resisting arrest.

In addition to the $2,090 he was allegedly caught stealing, University police said Harger damaged $5,200 worth of objects at the museum including a dunkleosteus terrelli (a prehistoric fish) replica valued at $4,000.

Harger did not immediately respond to The Lantern’s calls and emails.

Gnidovec spent about three hours Sunday trying to clean up the mess and was still working through Monday afternoon. He said he almost could not believe that someone would do this.

“I’ve been here 23 years,” Gnidovec said. “Nothing like this has happened.”

Gnidovec said most of the things Harger damaged are replaceable, but could take a lot of time and money to restore.

“Luckily everything he damaged is a reproduction,” he said.

The museum was closed to the public Monday so staff could continue to clean up the damage. Gnidovec said he hopes to reopen Tuesday, but the museum will not be the same for a long time.

“It’ll take months,” Gnidovec said. “That’s about all I can say, but I hope to have (the museum) open (Tuesday) because there are OSU classes that come here.”

Morman said Harger admitted to University police he had been drinking. Gnidovec said there did not appear to be any other motive to the crime, other than the fact that University police said he was intoxicated.

“We’re really sorry this happened because this is a wonderful resource for teaching, but hopefully we’ll be back better than ever when it’s all over,” Gnidovec said. “That’s going to take a lot of money and a lot of effort to get this back to where it was.”

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