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DID YOU HEAR? A real-life art heist happened in downtown Fort Myers!

Police and the young artist's family told Fox 4's Fort Myers Community Correspondent Anvar Ruziev how a painting highlighting an endangered lynx was stolen from the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center.
Posted at 10:52 PM, Apr 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-03 23:08:21-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — In a turn of events that sounds like it's straight out of a Hollywood film, downtown Fort Myers became the scene of a brazen art theft!

Police say it happened on March 12th inside the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center. A painting, adored for its vibrant allure and significance, was lifted off its display wall by a man who managed to conceal it under his shirt before making his exit. The Fort Myers Police Department (FMPD) launched an investigation rapidly, thanks to surveillance video and the help of quick-reacting staff who also recorded images of the suspect.

Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center art theft suspect vehicle
Police shared several surveillance photos of a suspect vehicle outside the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center in downtown Ft Myers, they believe was connected to the theft of a popular local painting in March 2024.

The painting was a creation of Isis McGhee, a 17-year-old Fort Myers High School student. It used bold colors to call attention to the lynx, the feline species closest to the brink of extinction.

Haley Hanson is a Store Director of the Franklin Shops where digital prints of the painting will soon be sold. She expressed a mix of emotions over the incident. "It was beautiful, brightly colored, I can totally see why people would want that," Hanson said.

Using the photos taken by a quick-thinking employee and facial recognition technology, police traced the suspect back to Miami and have since issued a warrant for his arrest.

Despite the theft, Hanson sees a silver lining, noting McGhee's artwork was now making history, "I was dumbfounded, but then I was like, wait, how cool at the same time," Hanson said, recognizing the paradox of the situation.

Police told Fox 4's Ft Myers Community Correspondent Anvar Ruziev that stolen art pieces sometimes find their way back home as thieves seek mercy from the justice system. The hope remains that this lynx might quickly return home.. to the community it was meant to inspire.