A monument honoring Purple Heart recipients was vandalized, along with the Citrus Co. Courthouse

Posted at 9:10 PM, Aug 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-25 22:12:56-04

The Old Citrus County Courthouse and a monument honoring Purple Heart recipients was vandalized early Wednesday morning.

Deputies say an alarm tripped around 6 a.m. and when they showed up they found Killian McLean on the roof.  Deputies called for a ladder truck to help and assist bring the 21-year-old down.

According to deputies, McLean told them he was creating "art" with spray paint.

Damage was done to the exterior walls of the courthouse, the door to the front window smashed, the clock tower was also vandalized and the monument had been sprayed with red spray paint.

McLean was drunk, deputies say.

Authorities estimate the damage to be $4,000.

McLean is being held on $17,000 bond.

He is charged with burglary to a structure with damage, criminal mischief and disfiguring a monument.

McLean briefly served in the military.


Purple Heart recipients Richard Hunt and Bud Allen head up the Citrus County Aaron A. Weaver Chapter 776 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Both U.S. Marine Corps veterans have been pivotal in getting the granite Purple Heart monument in Inverness-spending months trying to gather the funds to afford it.

It was installed in 2015.

They were one of the first to receive word it had been defaced.

"It was extreme disappointment for me," said Allen.  "We work so long and so hard to have this monument created."

Hunt told ABC Action News not many Purple Heart recipients wish to remain anonymous.  The monument is a place of serenity and where soldiers past and present can gather to reflect on what they went through or are currently experiencing. 

"Our monuments here are not about individuals, specific individuals, it is about veterans in general," explained Hunt.

He called the monument a place of healing.

"To take something that truly is about veterans and their families, they've given everything they have, their lives and damage it, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever that would ever be justified," Hunt added.

Both Allen and Hunt say the feel anger, sadness and disbelief.

"Each Purple Heart that has been awarded has its own unique story, it truly does.  Some of those stories are hard to relate, they really are," Allen said while choking back tears.

The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.


The name inscribed on the monument is Aaron Weaver, an Army Helicopter pilot.

Weaver, a Citrus County native and cancer survivor, was among nine soldiers killed in January 2004 when a Black Hawk medivac helicopter crashed near Fallujah.

The aircraft, marked with a red cross, was hit by an Iraqi rocket, Allen explained.

Weaver was 32.

The defacing of the monument struck a chord with his family members, especially his brother Ryan, who was also an Army helicopter pilot. 

Ryan posted the following statement to Facebook regarding the incident:

"I sincerely appreciate the outpouring of kind words for our family and my brother's sacrifice about what happened to the Aaron A. Weaver Purple Heart Chapter monument that honors all Purple Heart recipients in Citrus County, as well as the courthouse that I remember from when I was a child living in Floral City. He deserves punishment that fits the crime if he is mentally stable. If he's mentally unstable, he needs help. I've seen superhero Veterans who have made life and death decisions on multiple deployments take their own lives- it's not something a hero with a stable mental condition would do. I was initially furious to see the spray paint next to my brother's name, but with so much going on in the media and on social media that places the execution before the judge and jury, I ask that everyone try to keep a kind heart. This is my opinion and does not necessarily represent my family's opinion on the matter. My Dad has always taught me to try to hold my opinion until I know the facts, and he's the greatest man I've ever known. I'm not condoning what has been done- it's extremely unfortunate either way. Be safe! Ryan."

Weaver's other brother, Steve, was also an Army Helicopter pilot.

According to Hunt, the family suffered another loss when Aaron's sister's husband lost his life in combat.

"Aaron Weaver was the first from this county to die in the global war on terror and we have gathered around his family.  The tragic part with them is they've lost a second family member, Randy Billings, who was married to Aaron's sister.  He was a helicopter pilot that died in Iraq.  So that family has taken two specific, personal loses," Hunt said.

He said when damage is done to monuments like this one, it impacts everyone, including families like the Weavers.


Both Allen and Hunt estimate there are about 300 Purple Heart recipients throughout the county--about 150 in their chapter. 

The county is also home to more than 20,000 veterans.

In January 2016, the county was named a Purple Heart county.

"It is amazing how much the community supports the veterans and the Purple Heart community," Allen said.

The designation is bestowed on counties, cities and schools that go above and beyond to support military and veterans.

In Citrus County, at every government building there are parking spots designated for those wounded in combat.

The county is also how to two Purple Heart cities, a Purple Heart school district and the first-ever Purple Heart Sheriff's Office in the nation.

Hunt was selected as the 2016 Military Order of the Purple Heart U.S.A. Patriot of the Year, out of approximately 45,000 members at the MOPH National Convention in Norfolk, Virginia.