WILMINGTON — Witnesses report they saw two adults removing the flags from veterans’ graves in Sugar Grove Cemetery on April 26, but those subjects have yet to be identified
“I conducted several interviews of persons who witnessed the flags being removed,” Wilmington Police Det. Scott Baker wrote in the updated incident report provided to the News Journal. “Those witnesses all stated they observed one male and one female removing all the flags on April 26, 2019, from the hours of 1730 to 1930 hours.
“Witnesses stated they have observed both subjects in the cemetery on a weekly basis and believed they were local to Wilmington. They are described as follows: Male subject was short, appeared to be in his 40’s with white hair. The female was tall, long hair pulled in a pony tail, glasses and appeared to be much older than the male, estimated in their late 50’s.
“Most witnesses thought it was strange the flags were being removed, but did not call to report the incident since the subjects were removing the flags in the daytime. Witnesses further report the subjects made several piles of flags in each section of the cemetery and, when completed, drove a black, possibly Chevy 4-door sedan through the cemetery, placing the flags in their trunk.
“The area was canvassed for personal surveillance cameras on houses located on Truesdell Street,” Baker continued. “Surveillance cameras were of no assistance in identifying these subjects. One witness states she has observed this same couple in other public places in Wilmington, but did not know their names. Witness stated if she sees them out she will contact me so they can be identified.”
Baker wrote in the report that he met with the Clinton County Prosecutor’s Office and attorneys stated that a criminal intent has to be established for any criminal charges to be pursued, pursuant to Ohio Revised Code 2909.05 — Vandalism.
The report states that, as of May 16, the subjects are still unidentified and no clear motive has been discovered.
If the subjects are identified and they are found to have removed the flags with no criminal intent of knowingly causing harm to any property, this case will be closed with no criminal charges pursued, but the case could be-re-opened if new evidence comes forward or the subjects are identified, police stated.
The flags will be ‘honorably retired’ in separate ceremonies conducted by local veterans’ organizations. The VFW will hold its ceremony on Flag Day, June 14 at 7 p.m., and the American Legion will conduct its ceremony on June 11 at 7:30 p.m. The public is welcomed to both ceremonies.
Placing new ones
New American flags will be placed, as usual, in the holders on the veterans’ graves this coming Sunday — the day preceding Memorial Day — beginning at 8 a.m.
Veterans stated that, due to the difficulty in identifying every veteran’s grave, “activity will have to be a little more organized and will require more volunteers.” They are requesting “any civic group or individual able to help honor our deceased veterans by replacing the stolen flags, please be at Sugar Grove’s main entrance at approximately 7:45 a.m. on May 26.”