A woman from Quincy has been charged with two misdemeanors for incidents related to the theft and destruction of several American flags.
Since early July, police have recorded seven incidents of theft or damage of American flags or of a woman approaching people about their American flags.
A 30-year-old Hispanic woman has been identified in five incidents and suspected in two more. The woman faces charges of Malicious Mischief in the third degree and Theft in the third degree, which have been referred to the Grant County Prosecutor’s Office for further action.
Quincy Police Department (QPD) Captain Ryan Green said that he believes the woman is dealing with mental health issues based upon interactions and her behavior.
At this time, the Quincy Valley Post-Register will not name the suspect, given the police’s belief that she is dealing with mental health issues.
Quincy City Council member Tom Harris said the woman approached him at his home while he was working outdoors on July 5. Harris said that she asked that he take down his flag. He declined. Harris says he keeps a flag up out of respect for service members, since he has personal connections to a few. Harris declined to comment further other than to say that he mentioned the incident to QPD Chief Kieth Siebert. Chief Siebert directed detectives to Harris once other incidents involving flags around town came to light.
The woman has been connected to four other incidents involving American flags. A July 5 report identifies the woman as approaching a residence near Pioneer Elementary and removing small American flags from a fence post. “After being confronted about stealing the flags, (the suspect) returned them but argued that they were a symbol of sex trafficking,” the reports states. The woman then left.
Around noon another report came in, this time from a coffee stand on F Street SW, which stated that one of their flags had been stolen and thrown into the trash at a nearby auto parts store.
At 1:48 p.m. police received another report about stolen flags. A taco restaurant on F Street SE had five separate American flags cut from their poles during the night. The woman is a suspect in the incident, as well.
On July 7, employees from a hardware store on E Street SE witnessed the woman cutting down the flag the store’s staff had posted outside.
A store employee was working the front counter when she saw someone cutting the flag that is displayed outside their store’s door. She called her manager, Jeremy Sewall, over the radio and he went outside to deal with the situation. The employee said the manager confronted the woman and recovered the damaged flag, which has since been replaced.
QPD Detective Stephen Harder stated in a report that he contacted the woman on July 8 and she said that the flags were a symbol of sex trafficking. When Detective Harder spoke to her about the hardware store’s incident, the woman asked if it was a crime, and then said she would replace it. Harder told her it was vandalism to cut down somebody’s flag.
“(The suspect) said to take it to court,” the report stated.
The owner of a grocery store on Central Avenue S reported that their flag had been stolen on Aug. 2. A woman appeared on their surveillance video moving a newspaper dispenser in order to gain access to the market’s hanging flag. QPD officers identified the woman as the same from the previous incidents.
Aug. 16 the Quincy Senior Center staff reported that someone removed and damaged their flag. Video surveillance from the early hours of Aug. 15 shows a woman pulling the flag and wood rod off a flagpole. She then put the empty rod back on the pole and walked away. The damaged flag was found in a nearby trash receptacle.
Damage to the flags amounts to about $225, the police reports stated.