Sleuthing finds suspect who slammed into special sign

2013-03-29T03:55:00Z 2013-03-29T10:34:06Z Sleuthing finds suspect who slammed into special signBy NANCY HICKS / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

A special sign, almost a sculpture, with the outline of Lincoln landmarks, was mowed down last weekend.

But police, through a CSI-type investigation, found and cited the hit-and-run driver.

And Near South Neighborhood Association leaders hope the man's car insurance will help restore the sign to its proper grandeur.

It took almost two years and the work of a dozen people to move the sign from an idea through three city advisory groups and into the ground.

And this was more than a sign. 

"It stood on its own as a piece of art," said Avery Klein, who dreamed up the idea to spruce up the small park at the corner of 27th and South streets. 

The sign reflected well-known images from the Near South and nearby downtown: the Capitol, the sculpture garden dome, First-Plymouth Church, the Clark-Leonard House at 20th and F streets.

The sign is made of a steel called corten that will weather to a rust red, and then to a darker maroon, picking up the color of the flowers in the landscaping.

It's on a stainless steel base, so the lettering -- Near South Neighborhood -- eventually will stand out against a brown and red patina. 

The sign cost more than $5,400 for production and installation, and was purchased with money from a $1,500 city mini-grant and neighborhood fundraising.

It stood at the northwest corner of 27th and South streets for just three weeks before a car ran up over the curb, knocked it down and then took off.

Klein, who shepherded the sign through design and the city labyrinth of advisory groups, also discovered its demise Sunday morning.

The sign was on the ground, with pieces of the sign and car lying together.

Klein, who is kind of a car guy himself, picked up a couple pieces from the car with parts numbers.

Police picked up some more pieces with parts numbers.

Police traced the parts numbers and determined they came from a red, 2006-2007 Mazdaspeed 6.  

Licensing records showed just one of those sporty models in Lincoln.

Police charged Naoufel Elabidi, 36, with negligent driving and leaving the scene of an accident, Lincoln Police Officer Katie Flood said.

Elabidi told police he lost control of the vehicle, struck the sign, then panicked and left, Flood said.

It's good news that police were able to find the car and driver.

Hit-and-run accidents often have low clearance rates because not much evidence is usually left at the scene, Flood said. 

The driver was not ticketed for failure to have insurance, which may be good news for neighborhood leaders, who are hoping insurance will help with the cost of repairing and reinstalling the sign.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.

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