A preliminary incident summary released by Ohio State Thursday provides a narrative account of the violent events that occurred in November when a former OSU security officer entered the Wexner Center for the Arts and vandalized artwork before taking his own life. However, the names of the artwork, as well as their locations within the gallery, remain redacted from the report.
In a statement included with the summary, OSU said the redactions were “primarily made to protect information that identifies specific artwork and damage sustained, because this information constitutes trade secret information protected by Ohio law.”
“Across the museum field and the community of art collectors, lenders and borrowers, such information is commonly regarded as legally-protected trade secrets, in order to safeguard the interests of art owners, lenders, borrowers, insurers and art institutions,” the statement read.
In addition to the names of the artwork, references to their locations within the Wexner Center were also redacted from the report. The statement also explains that other redactions were made to “protect specific security and infrastructure information deemed proprietary to the Wexner Center and its security staff and operations.”
At the time of the incident, the center was showcasing the “After Picasso: 80 Contemporary Artists” exhibition, which featured selected works of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso’s peers, including art by Brassaï and Andy Warhol.
Originally prepared at the request of the Franklin County Coroner, the three-page report describes the events that unfolded in the Wexner Center on Nov. 29.
The summary begins by explaining how 63-year-old Dean Sturgis, who retired from OSU in lieu of termination in 2009, entered the Wexner Center through the College Road entrance at 11:17 a.m. He acknowledged the front desk attendant’s greeting before proceeding down the stairs toward the galleries and gift shop. Upon reaching the gallery level, Sturgis interacted with a security officer before pulling out a revolver, shaking it at the officer and telling him “not to interrupt him,” the report stated. Then, using a can of spray paint held in his left hand, Sturgis began to vandalize artwork in an undisclosed portion of the gallery.
A minute later, according to the report, Sturgis was approached by another security officer, who saw him spray paint a piece of art from across the gallery room. The officer “started to approach Sturgis when he pulled the revolver out with his right hand and pointed it at her, stating, ‘relax’ and told her to not do anything ‘funny,’” the report stated. Sturgis then crossed the gallery floor and continued to vandalize artwork in the gallery.
At approximately 11:20 a.m., after interacting with another security officer, Sturgis shot a piece of artwork twice with his revolver. One of the bullets passed through the artwork, as well as the drywall on which the piece was mounted. It also went through another piece of artwork before landing inside another wall, according to the report.
A Wexner Center security supervisor called 911 around 11:24 a.m. while Sturgis continued to spray paint and shoot at more artwork, the report stated. The first OSU Police Department and Columbus Police officers arrived approximately two minutes and 40 seconds after receiving information regarding what was happening at the Wexner Center.
Around 11:24 a.m., after vandalizing several more pieces in various portions of the gallery, Sturgis sat down in a metal folding chair and shot himself in the head, the report stated. He had been in the Wexner Center for seven minutes and 22 seconds.
Two minutes later, OSU police officers entered the building, according to the report. Columbus Fire Department medics arrived at the scene at approximately 11:46 a.m. and pronounced Sturgis dead.
Since the incident, the university has declined to provide specific information regarding what was vandalized or the extent of the damage. In an emailed statement that accompanied the report, OSU spokesman Chris Davey said a “full investigative report and associated records will be released when (the investigation) is complete.”
“Until that time the university will have no further comment in order to protect the integrity of this ongoing law enforcement investigation,” the statement read.