MANATEE -- The gold medal was set to be melted.
Bradenton Police Department detectives retrieved a stolen 2012 Olympic 24-karat gold medal -- valued at $42,000 -- at 8 p.m. Thursday, mere hours before suspects could melt it down.
"Pawning or fencing the medal would be difficult given the media attention around it," Lt. John Affolter of the Bradenton Police Department said. The medal was stolen Sept. 11 from a world-class sprinter who trains at IGM Academy in Bradenton.
"We were told by two sources that it had already been melted down," Affolter said. "The sources were probably accurate that melting was the intention, but in reality we got there quite possibly just before they melted it."
The recovery capped a frantic Thursday, which began with the Bradenton police arresting suspect Allen Nichols, 22, and charging him with grand theft of the medal from a truck parked in a gated apartment in the 4600 block of 66th Street West. But Nichols didn't have the medal. Bradenton police won't say yet where the medal was found or who had it, but it was recovered without a scratch, Affolter said.
"The medal is unharmed as is the case and lanyard," Affolter said.
Medal owner Demetrius Pinder of the Bahamas will be reunited with his gold medal Friday, police say.
More arrests are expected in the case, said Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski.
"Mr. Pinder sacrificed a lot," Affolter said. "So, recovering it is very fulfilling for all of us."
In the past 20 years, the gold medal may be the top property recovery by the BDP, Affolter said.
"I have worked a lot of cases but this is up there with the most notable recoveries we have had in that time," Affolter said.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072.