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Police arrest man who says he destroyed Trump's star on Walk of Fame

On Wednesday morning, police say a man dressed as a construction worker smashedDonald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame using a sledgehammer and pickax. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

James Otis said he planned to turn himself in for damaging Donald Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

But before doing that, he told media early Thursday, he would hold a news conference at the scene of the crime — where a replacement star had been installed.

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L.A. police were having none of that. Hours before the planned event, officers from the Los Angeles Police Department's Hollywood station arrested Otis on suspicion of smashing up the star.

Otis, a Beverly Hills resident, said he took a sledgehammer and pick to Trump's star the day before, causing damage that police estimated at $2,500. The offense would be considered felony vandalism, police said.

In a phone interview with a Los Angeles Times reporter Wednesday, Otis spoke of his disdain for the Republican presidential candidate, business mogul and reality TV star.

“I just sort of had enough with Mr. Trump’s aggressive language toward women and his behavior, his sexual violence with women and against women,” Otis said of recent accusations against the GOP presidential nominee, accusations that Trump has called false. “I’ve had personally in my own family four people who have been assaulted or have had sexual violence happen to them. It all became very personal.”

Otis, who identified himself as the culprit in a report published by Deadline, said he spent weeks planning his "nonviolent action," even going as far as spending a couple of nights in Hollywood to scope out the area to pick a time when he could do it "safely, carefully and successfully."

He called the action a "form of freedom of expression."

Police called it a crime.

Thursday afternoon, the LAPD formally identified Otis, 52, as the man booked in connection with the Trump star vandalism. Officer Tony Im said Otis was booked on suspicion of felony vandalism. Online jail records show Otis was being held on $20,000 bail.

The damage to the sidewalk monument ended up removing its TV emblem, some of the letters of Trump's name and a little piece of the star, which Otis said he plans to auction off on election day to raise money for the women who have accused Trump of sexual assault, as well as for a college campus organization that is working to stop sexual violence.

Otis said he would "gladly pay the damages to the site."

Otis said he remodels homes, teaches nonviolent direct action and has the largest Dr. Seuss collection in the country.

A 2000 L.A. Times article reported on Otis' collection of mostly small works created by Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel between the 1920s and early 1990s.

Otis is no stranger to controversy. In 2009, a Times article detailed India's efforts to halt an auction of Mohandas Gandhi items owned by Otis.

Otis bought the items, which included Gandhi's 1910 Zenith pocket watch, his steel-rimmed eyeglasses and a brass bowl and plate, from the Gandhi family or at auctions, he told The Times.

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The article, which identified Otis as a Los Angeles-based pacifist and documentary filmmaker, said Otis chose to sell the items because he hoped publicity surrounding the sale would inspire the Obama administration and others to pursue nonviolence.

He pledged to give most of the proceeds to groups espousing nonviolence. Gandhi's items ultimately sold for $1.8 million.

Twitter: @Brittny_Mejia

Times staff writer Kate Mather contributed to this report. 

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UPDATES:

2:45 p.m: This article was updated with information from James Otis' booking.

10:40 a.m.: This article was updated with details about James Otis' life and background.

8:02 a.m.: This article was updated with news of an arrest in connection with the vandalizing of Donald Trump's Hollywood Walk of Fame star.

This article was originally published at 6:20 a.m.

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