Tree relinquished by Cal captors; revered mascot safely back on campusNovember 2, 1998
Stanford sports fans and nature lovers everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief: the Tree has been returned.
An unidentified person returned the unharmed Tree costume to the UC-Berkeley Chancellor's Office at 4 p.m. on Friday. A UCPD officer immediately escorted the Tree to the Stanford Police Station, where it remains, under armed guard, in the evidence room. The costume's owner and wearer, junior Chris Henderson, will reclaim the Tree in time for Tuesday's women's volleyball game.
A representative for the Phoenix Five, the group of Cal students claiming credit for the theft, called the Cal Chancellor's office Friday afternoon to determine whether charges would still be pressed if they returned the Tree immediately. Cal officials consulted the Stanford Police, who agreed to drop all charges upon the safe return of the Tree.
The man who returned the tree was apparently not a student and was "of parental age," according to Cal spokesman Jesus Mena.
The Phoenix Five stole the Tree on the early morning of Oct. 17 from a locked cage in the Band Shak. The group claimed responsibility for the heist a week later by sending a letter and a photo of the blindfolded Tree to The Daily Californian, Cal's newspaper.
Last week, Cal Chancellor Robert Berdahl issued a statement calling for the return of the tree and declaring that Oski, Cal's mascot, would not appear at Cal events until the Tree was returned.
Stanford Police Capt. Raoul Niemeyer, Cal spokesman Jesus Mena and Stanford Dean of Students Marc Wais all stated that the police and the schools consider the matter to be closed, and none will seek punishment for the Phoenix Five.
In the last several days, the police had been hot on the trail of the Phoenix Five, according to Niemeyer.
"We had one guy identified, and it was only a matter of time [until the others were discovered]," Niemeyer said.
"We stopped their car at 4:30 of the morning in question [Oct. 17] and the driver was interviewed and released," he added. After the theft was reported, "our detectives went up to Berkeley and talked to him, but he wasn't cooperative. We could tell by his body language that he was being less than honest."
Neither Stanford nor the police is taking any further measures to protect the Tree in the future.
"I have all the confidence in the world that the truly incomparable Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band will take all measures necessary to prevent a similar incident from reoccurring," said Wais.
Now that the Tree is back, "I'll be excited to see both mascots perform at the 101st Big Game," said Wais.
Mena added that "We hope to return to the rivalry where all the hard hitting will be on the field."
Henderson is just relieved that his costume has been recovered.
"It's bittersweet. I'm happy that it's back; I'm sad it's been contaminated by being on the Cal campus for two weeks."
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