Video: Cops supervise as alleged thieves return Art Institute lion’s “COVID-19 mask”

For the second night in a row, Chicago police responded to calls of people stealing “COVID-19” masks from the Art Institute’s landmark lion statutes early Saturday.

But today’s incident had a much different ending: Police caught up with the sticky-fingered thieves and made them re-install the lion’s mask, according to a witness.

Thursday morning, workers installed Chicago flag-style “masks” on the Daley Center’s Picasso sculpture and two lion statues that have guarded the Art Institute’s front doors for over 100 years, CBS2 reported.

Around 11 p.m. that night, an Art Institute security guard called police after two men climbed on top of the museum’s north lion, cut its mask off, and fled in a black car.

Then, just after 1 a.m. Saturday, the guard called police again. The same car was back, the guard said, and the men were on top of a lion, trying to steal another mask.

Cops responded quickly and a witness called 911 to provide turn-by-turn directions as the thieves’ car left the scene. Officers pulled the car over at Columbus Drive and Ida B. Wells, according to a police department spokesperson.

Four cops escorted the black Mitsubishi Lancer back to the Art Institute a few minutes later. 

The officers “made some kids climb up on the lion and replace the mask,” said a CWBChicago reader who was on the scene.

A brief video from the scene shows two men shuffling near the north lion while cops watch. A black sedan can be seen parked on Michigan Avenue with two police cruisers behind it. Both of the men in the video are 18-years-old, according to police records.

An Art Institute representative declined to press charges after Saturday’s thieves returned the mask and both men were released, a CPD spokesperson said.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is