Criminal complaint: Same man helped tear down Hans statue, loot Madison jewelry store

If convicted, Nelson could face 12 years in prison and upwards of $25,000 in fines.
Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 3:16 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Authorities have formally charged a Madison man accused of both joining a crowd of people who broke into Goodman’s Jewelers and stealing $10,000 worth of jewelry amid looting in late May, as well as one of the people accused of tearing down the Hans Christian Heg statue and tossing it into Lake Monona earlier this week.

The allegations against Kelsey D. Nelson were detailed in two criminal complaints released Friday. Nelson, 30, will be in Dane County Court for his preliminary hearing on July 2. If convicted on both counts, Nelson could face up to 16 years in prison and upwards of $35,000 in fines.

Investigators also conclude that the total sum of jewelry taken from Goodman’s is estimated to be worth more than $26,000, according to the complaint. The damage to the Hans statue is estimated to be worth $30,000.


Looting of Goodman’s Jewelers

According to the first complaint, police said Nelson and and others ran into Goodman’s Jewelers on State Street after suspects smashed windows with sticks. The alleged incident occurred amid protests over the death of George Floyd as well as looting and vandalism that broke out on May 30.

Once inside, the complaint states Nelson walked to the back of the jewelry store and kicked a display, removed several items from inside and walked out of the store visibly carrying jewelry.

The criminal complaint found that some witnesses tried to stop the looting from occurring. Video posted to YouTube apparently shows a man yelling to people, “Get the (expletive) away from the jewelry store,” the complaint states.

On Friday, prosecutors formally charged Nelson with burglary of a building or dwelling - repeater and felony criminal damage to property. Court records indicate Nelson was previously convicted of theft, a felony, in Dane County Court.

Using a combination of surveillance footage, city street cameras and video taken from witnesses, investigators eventually concluded that one of the suspects involved in the looting of Goodman’s was Nelson, the complaint states.

Downtown protesters drag the statue of Hans Christian Heg after tearing it down Tuesday night.
Downtown protesters drag the statue of Hans Christian Heg after tearing it down Tuesday night.(WMTV)

Tearing down of Hans Christian Heg statue

The second of the two complaints focusing on Nelson’s alleged involvement in the tearing down of the historic statue of Hans Christian Heg, who was a veteran of the Union Army during the American Civil War.

The complaint states that officers with Capitol Police were monitoring a crowd as they tore down another statue on June 23, the “Forward” statue on the Capitol Square. After they successfully taking that statue off its base, the crowd moved on to the Hans statue, near Pinckney and Main streets.

According to the complaint, authorities were able to use a city camera to track the protesters more closely. The complaint states that the group attached chains to the Hans statue to a sport utility vehicle, and were eventually able to rip the statue off the ground. The complaint states that soon after, the city camera captured a man exiting the passenger side of the vehicle. That man, according to the complaint, is identified as Nelson.

Police tracked down the gray Nissan to a parking lot, and identified the operator as Nelson. Officers with the Madison Police Department then made the arrest.

Investigators also took DNA samples from blood found inside the store, but did not say if the tests led to any potential suspects.


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