Four men removed the mysterious metal monolith placed in a remote section of Utah, an eyewitness claims.
The three-sided stainless-steel structure first spotted by wildlife officials counting sheep in southeastern Utah on Nov. 18 was taken down late Friday by a team of four men who worked in pairs and shoved it to the ground, the New York Times reported.
Ross Bernards, a 34-year-old photographer from Colorado, told the newspaper he drove six hours earlier that night to get a glimpse of the peculiar structure that prompted worldwide speculation over how it got there, since it was installed illegally on public lands.
After pushing the monolith to the ground, Bernards said, the men broke it apart and took it away in a wheelbarrow, the New York Times reported.
“As they walked off with the pieces, one of them said, ‘Leave no trace,’” Bernards told the newspaper.
Worried about a possible confrontation and suspecting the men might be armed, Bernards decided not to snap photos of them. He did post other shots on Instagram, however. But a friend of his from Denver, James Newlands, 38, managed to get a few images with his cellphone, he said.
“It must have been 10 or 15 minutes at most for them to knock over the monolith and pull it out,” Newlands told the newspaper. “We didn’t know who they were, and we were not going to do anything to stop them.”
Newlands said the men were determined to leave with the 10-foot-plus structure.
“They just came in there to execute and they were like, ‘This is our mission,’” Newlands recalled.
Newlands’ blurry snapshots show several men wearing gloves — but without masks — while standing over the monolith, which is hollow and has a framework made of plywood, the Times reported.
Newlands’ images are the only known shots of the monolith being removed. It’s unclear if the men who took it down were responsible for installing it. The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office said early Sunday it was aware the object had been removed, but said it didn’t have the “proper resources” to probe its puzzling appearance and subsequent removal.
“However, with hundreds visiting the area during the last few days, perhaps someone saw something suspicious,” sheriff’s officials said. “If you recognize anyone from the lineup provided as being in the area of the strange structure on the night of November 27th, please let us know!”
Google Earth imagery, meanwhile, shows it appeared sometime between August 2015 and October 2016.
A large number of people flocked to the site over Thanksgiving week, leaving behind trash and parking on vegetation, according to the Bureau of Land Management.