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SBSD - Rancho Cucamonga Police Department
Thursday April 13th, 2017 :: 01:34 p.m. PDT


Colonel Smith available for interviews today **Recovery of Tuskegee Airman Bust Missing for Over 14 Years

**Colonel Ralph Smith will be available for interviews today, April 13th at the Rancho Cucamonga Station @ 3:15 p.m. ** Contact Deputy Jake Bailey at (909)774-2674.

DATE/TIME: April 7, 2017 / 8:40 PM

INCIDENT: Routine Traffic Stop Leads to Recovery of Tuskegee Airman Bust Missing for Over Fourteen Years
LOCATION: Rancho Cucamonga

SUSPECT: Brian Sawyer, 24-year-old, resident of Fontana

On April 7, 2017 at approximately 8:40 pm, Deputy Daniel Lopez of the Victoria Gardens Retail Theft Team conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle for a minor traffic violation. Lopez contacted the driver, Brian Sawyer and learned he was on felony probation and was not in possession of a driver’s license. Deputy Lopez conducted a search of Sawyer's vehicle and located methamphetamine, heroin, a loaded handgun and ammunition.

Lopez confirmed Sawyer's probation address in the city of Fontana. Lopez and additional deputies immediately responded to Sawyer's residence and conducted a probation search. During the search, deputies located an additional firearm, drug paraphernalia and more ammunition.

Deputies also found a bust (facial statue) of an Air Force Colonel in Sawyer's bedroom. The bust was labeled with the name Col. Ralph Smith and the words "Tuskegee Airman" engraved in it.

Deputy Lopez discovered Colonel Ralph Smith was an American hero and a member of the Famous Tuskegee Airman unit (U.S. Army Air Force units in World War II that were comprised primarily of African American flyers and maintenance crews.)

Lopez discovered Colonel Smith lived in the city of Moreno Valley. Lopez was able to get in contact with Colonel Smith, and during a conversation with the Colonel, Lopez learned the bust was sculpted by world famous sculptor Don Winton and was given to Colonel Smith in 2003. Don Winton was contacted by the Smithsonian Museums and asked to have the bust displayed; however, the bust went missing 14 years ago. Colonel Smith told Lopez he believed he would never see the sculpture again.

On Sunday afternoon, Deputy Lopez and the entire Victoria Gardens Retail Theft Team presented Colonel Smith with his recovered priceless bust. "The emotional reunification with Colonel Smith and his piece of American history was worth every second I spent on this investigation." said Deputy Lopez (photo of Deputy Lopez and Colonel Smith attached)

Sawyer was arrested and booked into the West Valley Detention Center for possession of a controlled substance while armed, felon in possession of a firearm and possession of stolen property. Sawyer’s bail was set at $50,000.
Sawyer posted a bail bond on April 9th and is currently out of custody.

Anyone with information regarding this incident, or any other crime Sawyer may be involved in, should contact the Rancho Cucamonga Police Department at (909) 477-2800. Callers wishing to remain anonymous may contact the We-Tip Hotline at 1-800-78CRIME (27463), or you may leave information on the We-Tip website at

Refer: Deputies Daniel Lopez, Gerad Laing and Eduardo Badillo
Station: Rancho Cucamonga Station
Case #: 111704477
Phone No. 909-477-2800

JOHN McMAHON, Sheriff-Coroner
San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department

SBSD - Rancho Cucamonga Police Department
10510 Civic Center Dr
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730

Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 909-477-2800

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