Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said Monday that violent incidents elsewhere in the city Saturday night prevented officers from stopping protesters from toppling the Little Italy statue of Christopher Columbus, which they then threw in the Jones Falls.

“As the Baltimore Police Department was responding to several life and death incidents across the city, a small number of officers were assigned to assist with peaceful protests taking place in the downtown area," Harrison said in a statement. "As the number of protesters grew, it was tactically unsafe for those few officers to position themselves between the protestors and the Christopher Columbus Statue in (an) attempt to prevent vandalism and destruction."

Harrison pledged police will conduct a "full investigation" and hold those responsible accountable.

Crews hoisted pieces of the statue on Monday but have yet to recover its head. John Pica, the former state delegate who chairs the city's Columbus Day parade and commemoration, said he's intent on seeing it restored.

Protesters mobilized by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police have called for the removal of statues of Columbus, Confederate figures and others. They say the Italian explorer is responsible for the genocide and exploitation of native peoples in the Americas.

The statue was owned by the city and dedicated in 1984 by former Mayor William Donald Schaefer and President Ronald Reagan. Read more at WBAL