BILLINGS — A beloved Billings landmark - the green dinosaur at a Sinclair gas/convenience store - is in shambles after an attempted robbery last week. It’s left the business owner stunned - and the community angry.
When Bill and Shea Grinsell bought the Sinclair station more than six years ago, it didn’t have a dinosaur statue.
Bill explained, "You had to earn the dinosaur at that time at Sinclair, we were a top producer.”
As soon as they earned it, it became a hit. And that made the events on October 17 that much more frustrating. Surveillance video shows several people arrive in a pickup truck at around 1 in the morning, clearly with a plan.
Bill said, "They wrapped a tow rope around his neck, they kept yanking on him, they finally ripped his head off.”
The statue was bolted down through each foot - but ripping it in half wasn’t enough: "They put the tow rope on his body and got the rest of him.”
The video shows the suspects loading the dinosaur into the truck and then driving off.
The Grinsells were notified about an hour later. When the sun came up, the Sinclair staff took matters into their own hands.
Crystal Hanna, a store manager, said, "I posted it on Billings Classified and Neighborhood Watch. Within an hour, I got all these tips - we saw a dino on Northside.”
Another worker drove by the site and spotted the dino, and then two others retrieved it - all of it.
Shortly after he was back home, the community offered to rebuild him better than before.
Bill said, "Some boat people who work with fiberglass, they wanted to put him back together.”
But before they could - a second gut punch.
Hanna said, "Sometime in the evening, someone decided they wanted the head, so they took the head.”
As of Thursday, no arrests have been made, and police say the investigation is still open.
Bill is talking to security companies about upgrading his security cameras. He’s contacted Sinclair about replacing the dinosaur, and they’re trying to find one.
In the meantime, workers like Hanna are the bearers of bad news for visitors.
"I actually had a guy today come in and ask what happened because he was going to bring his dog to prop the dog on it," Hanna said.
"I really thought when we got the dinosaur that he would last forever," Bill said. "I never thought anyone would vandalize him."
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