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Vandal Sought After Navy Veteran's Flag Burns to ‘Bits and Pieces'

The homeowner said he found "bits and pieces" of his flag in the street and scorched concrete

After a man took an American flag from a veteran's Long Beach front porch and burned it in the street last month, police asked for the public's help Thursday to identify the man responsible.

The victims, who live at a home in the 6200 block of Pageantry Street in Long Beach, first noticed their metal flagpole leaning against their house without the flag around 8 a.m. on July 25, police said.

John Tyson, the owner of the home, is a Navy veteran who said he put up the flag in front of his home as a point of pride. Tyson put the flag up two years ago after he was inspired by his neighbor's flag.

The residents found the burned remains of their flag in the street in front of their neighbor's house, according to the Long Beach Police Department. Tyson said he found, "bits and pieces of it," and that the concrete around it was scorched.

Long Beach Police officers responded to a report of vandalism around 8:25 a.m., and found that a man had removed and burned the homeowners' flag between 12:25 a.m. and 12:50 a.m. the previous night, Long Beach police said.

Surveillance footage captured the man walking up to the front porch of the Long Beach home holding his cellphone around 12:30 a.m.

He can be seen returning to the porch around 20 minutes later. The video shows him removing the flagpole from its spot at the home, laying the flag down and taking the flag off the flagpole.

Then the man can be seen on surveillance footage walking with the flag toward the street and behind a pickup truck, lighting the flag on fire and walking away, Long Beach police said.

The burning flag can also be seen on the video until it burns out. No other property was damaged in the fire, police said.

"It was very disturbing, very upset, you know that someone wants to burn my flag," Tyson said. "You can burn your own flag if you want, it's your right, but it's like you've been invaded."

Tyson added he believes burning an American flag should be illegal. He put another flag up right after his flag was burned.

"I went right back to the store and got it and put it right back up," Tyson said. "That symbolizes so much for us you know, like I said, being American we do have a lot of freedoms."

Since this crime is a felony, this man could spend up to three years in state prison if convicted, according to the Long Beach Police Department.

"Regardless of it being an American flag, if they had taken a chair off the front porch and lit it on fire it would be the same thing," noted Detective Dennis Zigrang with the Long Beach Police Department.

"Long Beach Police and Fire investigators have exhausted all leads, but are hopeful someone may recognize the suspect in the video and come forward with information," Long Beach police said Thursday.

Police describe the man in the surveillance footage as in his early 20s, with a stocky build, a tattoo on the outside of his left calf, and one on the inside of his right calf. He was seen wearing a monster baseball cap, a T-shirt with a logo on it, and shorts.

Anyone with information should call Long Beach Fire/Arson Investigator Dennis Zigrang at 562-570-2575.

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