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Historic Mission Inn Museum bell returned safely with help of RPD, community leaders

The raincross bell was previously stolen from the property and had been missing for several days.

A picture of Detective Ron Knoffloch standing beside the raincross bell
Detective Ron Knoffloch of RPD stands with the Mission Inn Museum raincross bell after it was secured.

The Mission Inn Museum Raincross Bell has been successfully returned with the help of local officials and the Riverside Police Department (RPD) after being stolen for the first time in its two-decade history.

On Friday, Oct. 1, Detective Ron Knoffloch of the RPD contacted the museum to verify that the historic bell, which had been missing for a couple days, was retrieved and secured at the Orange Station downtown.

The bell, which is regularly left outside during the museum’s open hours, was taken the night of Tuesday, Sept. 28, after a museum staff member mistakenly left the object outside after closing, according to Nanci Larsen, director of audience development at the establishment.

“I felt bad that our city symbol and something that sat outside of our museum door for probably 20 years was gone,” Larsen said.

It was not until the following morning, at approximately 9 a.m., that the staff discovered that the bell was missing. Larsen said threats of theft and burglary on the museum had never happened.

“We thought [the bell] was gone for good,” she said.

Larsen, who has been working at the museum since 2007, said she immediately contacted every Riverside leader she knew by email including Philip Falcone, the Press Secretary to the Mayor, to ask the city to look at its security cameras. She said Janice Penner, the executive director at Riverside Downtown Partnership alerted community ambassadors and took the issue further by informing several local businesses of the incident.

The museum was ultimately advised by North RPD Lt. Chad Milby and East RPD Lt. Steve Goodson to formally report the theft, Larsen said.

According to the filed police report, at approximately 12:15 a.m. an unidentified person visible from the security surveillance camera footage could be seen rolling the bell off the front steps of the museum on Wednesday, Sept. 29. Shortly before 3 a.m. the thief had managed to roll the bell down the street.

Officer J. Lin, who is a part of the Downtown Entertainment District team of RPD and had surveilled the cameras, quickly sent a flyer to alert the team assisting on the case downtown. That Thursday, he then reassured Larsen by text that the bell had been found, Larsen confirmed.

Knoffloch, who reviewed the footage, contacted Lin to confirm he recognized and knew the person who had taken the bell. He later was able to retrieve the historic object and personally volunteered to return it safely back to the museum.

Riverside “truly showed its strength and pride as a family” after several community leaders and officials came together to locate the bell and helped restore it damage free, Larsen said.

“The [RPD] and our downtown family are the real heart of Riverside,” she said.

The beloved Riverside Raincross and famous symbol, which draws from California Missions’ mass bells and the crosses used for rain by Native Americans, has been the city’s identifier since 1907, according to the Riverside city website. It was designed for the Mission Inn by Frank Miller, who was the landmark’s chief developer during its time of construction.