Police Searching for Person of Interest in Flag Burnings in Winona

Updated: 08/15/2014 12:00 AM
Created: 08/14/2014 10:52 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- Police in the Winona area are hoping surveillance images can help catch whoever is responsible for a string of flag burnings. 

In the past three weeks, 17 American flags have been burned, all of which were hanging on flag poles outside people’s homes.

Residents across the west side of Winona are understandably as the burnings have struck an emotional chord.

"These three were done about three weeks ago,” said Danny Hauser as he displayed the various holes burned into his flag. “These two were done Tuesday night sometime after I'd gone to bed."

For Hauser, whose grandson was in the army, the damage is more emotional than physical.

"[It] makes me disgusted that they can't respect our flag," Hauser said.

And he's not alone.

"Vulnerable, sick in our stomachs,” said Scott Turner, describing his feelings after discovering his flag had also been burnt. “Why would you do something like that? It's a bad feeling."

"This individual is showing terrible disrespect for the flag, and for the country,” said Sam Sasser, commander of American Legion Post #9 in Winona. “I hope they'll stop before it gets worse and does more damage.”

At a public meeting Thursday night, police released several images of what they described as a "person of interest" in the case.

Authorities said the camera was placed at a home that had their flags burned the night before, and said the person in the image is between 5' 8" and 5' 10" and is likely in their late teens or early twenties.

Apart from the emotional response the burnings have caused, authorities said there is also the very real danger that one of the homes could have caught fire.

"We've been fortunate up to now, we haven't had any significant damage to a house,” said Winona Police Chief Paul Bostrack. “Certainly of even greater concern is that somebody would be hurt. We've had no injuries associated with it."

Chief Bostrack said they've stepped up patrols in the areas along 5th and 6th streets where the incidents have occurred, and everyone at Thursday's meeting said they just want it to stop.

"I really can't think of why anyone would ever want to do that,” Sasser said. “I really, sincerely hope that this person will quit doing this and realize how wrong it is."

Authorities are asking anyone who has any information about the case to call the Winona Police Department at (507) 457-6302.

They also say if you see anything suspicious, particularly during overnight hours, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1.

Winona Police Department