Las Vegan finds stolen lion statue on way to work

A golden lion statue was found Monday morning, a day after it was stolen from an art installation on Decatur Boulevard and Flamingo Road.

“It’s a sad day for public art,” began Clark County’s announcement on its Instagram account the day the lion disappeared.

The lion, last seen sporting a pair of red sunglasses and surrounded by pink crocodiles, was reported missing on Sunday afternoon. The crocodiles were vandalized, and some were taken, according to a Clark County official.

Las Vegas resident Paul “Nighthawk” Ames, who works for a traffic barricade company, was driving to work around 9:30 a.m. Monday when he found the lion in the desert.

“I thought I had hit the jackpot of awesome,” Ames said. “I mean, it’s a giant golden lion statue.”

Ames loaded the lion into his work truck and went about his day, until a friend recognized the lion from news reports.

“He told me it was the stolen lion from the news, and I said, ‘It’s not stolen. I found it in the desert.’”

Ames dropped the lion off at a Metro substation. He said he was disappointed about having to turn in his awesome find. “I was looking forward to keeping it, but I’m glad it’ll be able to hopefully go back on display,” Ames said.

All county officials need to do now is identify the statue as theirs and take it back, Metro spokeswoman Laura Meltzer said.

“It’s pretty distinctive, but they need to come by and claim it as county property,” she said.

County spokesman Erik Pappa said the lion will be picked up by a county manager sometime Tuesday.

The lion statue was part of the second installation of Clark County’s “Centered” public art program, which places art in street medians. The 150-pound statue was created by Chris Bauder, a Las Vegas-born artist who teaches at the College of Southern Nevada. Made of fiberglass and a metal plate, the statue was installed April 26.

The lion’s future is uncertain, Pappa said, and will be determined by the artist and the head of the “Centered” project.

Pappa called the statue “priceless” and said the thief may face a felony larceny charge if caught.

Several pink crocodiles remain at large, he added.

Review-Journal writer Raven Jackson contributed to this story. Contact Max Michor at or 702-383-0381. Find @MaxMichor on Twitter.

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