Ponce de Leon statue in Melbourne Beach vandalized

There are several Ponce de Leon statues all over Florida, and in the past couple of weeks, a few of them had been vandalized.

Juan Ponce De Leon was a conquistador and later became the first Governor of Puerto Rico. This statue of him in Melbourne Beach already has a bit of controversy surrounding it. Historians are not in full agreement about where on the Florida Peninsula he first landed.  Now, there is new controversy after vandals spraypainted the words "AIS Murder."

"There was an Indian tribe that settled in Florida well known on East Coast of Florida the Ais Indians so the only thing I can take from what was written on the statue was it with something to do with that tribe," explained Tod Goodyear, spokesman for the Brevard County Sheriff's Office.

A deputy and fireman discovered the vandalism Sunday night and since then county workers have been able to scrub the message off. The Sheriff's Office is investigating.

Statues of Confederate generals, Christopher Columbus, and other polarizing historical figures have been damaged in recent demonstrations. The Sheriff's Office says it doesn’t appear that this incident is connected to any of the others but the motive is the same.

"This is something that's caught on -- it’s a way for them to voice their displeasure -- but it is a crime, it’s criminal mischief, to deface a statue," Goodyear added. "There is a penalty for that and when the people are identified or caught they’ll face the penalty."

The sculptor of the Ponce de Leon statue is a local artist in Brevard County.  He told FOX 35 News that he thinks what’s happening is an injustice and a shame.