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Reward offered after racial note left in place of stolen medals at Cottage Grove soccer tournament

A first place medal before it was stolen. Photo courtesy of Cottage Grove United Soccer Club1 / 2
The note was found in place of 500 stolen medal May 13. Explicit portions of the note have been removed. Photo courtesy of Cottage Grove United Soccer Club2 / 2

The annual Runnin' with the Wolves Soccer Tournament in Cottage Grove was overshadowed by the theft of over 500 medals May 12.

Cottage Grove police Det. Tom Ueland said one or more unidentified suspects went into the tournament tent, stole the medals and left a message saying: "These medals are mine" and ending with a racial slur.

The medals, worth $2,100, were set out at the park with other tournament equipment a day earlier. When organizers returned the morning of May 13, the medals were missing and the note was in their place.

This is the tournament's 15th year. Beth Lindblom, director of tournaments, said each year the tent is set up Friday night before the Saturday tournament, with the medals inside. She said nothing like this has ever happened before.

The Parks and Recreation Department increased use of surveillance cameras in Kingston Park after arson of play equipment last October caused $43,000 in damage, but Ueland said the videos did not provide anything of use for the investigation.

The Cottage Grove Public Safety Board is offering a $250 reward; anyone with information is asked to call Washington County dispatch at 651-439-9381.

Ueland said it was likely kids, and hopes a school resource officer will hear something at school.

Cottage Grove United President Randy Lynch also suspects kids. He said the tent was held shut by heavy zip ties that would have to be cut to get in, and the ties were not cut. Whoever went in had to crawl through a small space, and left a note with the handwriting that looked like a young person's.

"It was definitely a juvenile ... ," he said. "(It) put such a black eye on our community."

The police saw a group of five kids on the surveillance video come into the pavilion the night of the theft, but did not see them go toward the tent.

Lindblom said the tournament went well despite the incident.

"It didn't really affect the morale or anything of the tournament," she said. "Regardless of that cloud hanging over our heads, it was such a good day of soccer."

Lindblom also said there has been a great deal of support from the community and 70 teams that participated in the tournament. There have been people in Cottage Grove stepping forward to help get new medals, or possibly donating more.

"It is pretty cool in the retrospect of it all," she said.