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Billings Sinclair dinosaur statue destroyed after multiple thefts

Gas station mascot brought travelers through Billings
Sinclair dinosaur
Posted at 5:08 PM, Oct 27, 2022

BILLINGS — Sinclair Oil Company's big green dinosaur mascot is as much of a roadtrip symbol as there is in America. People would come to Billings’ only Sinclair, at the corner of Broadwater Avenue and 10th Street West, to take pictures with its 'Dino.'

That’s why so many are frustrated that vandals ripped it in half.

"I thought it was a point of pride for Billings," said Billings Sinclair owner Bill Grinsell.

When Grinsell and his wife Shea bought the Sinclair station six and a half years ago, it didn’t have a dinosaur statue.

"You had to earn the dinosaur at that time with Sinclair," Grinsell said. "We were a top producer a couple years in a row."

Sinclair dinosaur destroyed
An in-tact dinosaur statue sits outside a California Sinclair gas station in 2016.

As soon as they earned it, it became a hit, and that made the events on Oct. 17 that much more frustrating. Surveillance footage shows a group of individuals pulling up in a pickup truck around 1:00 a.m., clearly with a plan.

"They wrapped a tow rope around his neck, and they kept yanking on him, and they finally ripped his head off," Grinsell said.

The statue was bolted down through each foot. But ripping it in half apparently wasn’t enough.

"They backed up, put the tow rope on his body, kept yanking on him and finally got him out,” Grinsell added.

Footage shows them loading the dinosaur into the truck and then driving off, but not clearly enough to make out any defining characteristics of the individuals or vehicle.

Sinclair surveillance footage
A man is seen tying a tow rope to the back of a pickup truck - with the other end tied around the Sinclair dinosaur mascot's neck.

The Grinsells were notified about an hour later. When the sun came up, the Sinclair staff took matters into their own hands.

"I posted it on Billings Classified and Neighborhood Watch," said day manager Crystal Hanna. "Within an hour, I got all these tips. 'Hey, we saw a Dino sitting up on Northside.”

Another worker drove by the site and spotted Dino, and then two more retrieved him - all of him.

"He was intact," Grinsell said. "He was just tattered."

Shortly after he was back home, the community offered to rebuild him better than before.

"Some boat people who work with fiberglass, they approached me and wanted to put him back together," Grinsell said.

But before they could, a second gut punch.

"Sometime in the evening, someone decided they wanted the head, so they took the head," Hanna said.

Sinclair dino destroyed
The dinosaur had bolts through each of its four feet, but thieves were able to pry it up by tying a tow rope around it and pulling with a pickup truck.

No arrests have been made, and police say the investigation is still open. Grinsell is talking to security companies about upgrading his cameras.

He’s reached out to Sinclair Corporate about replacing the dinosaur, and they’re trying to find one. In the meantime, workers like Hanna are the bearers of bad news.

"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," Grinsell said. "I never thought anyone would vandalize him."