Connellsville police looking for flag burner

| Monday, July 9, 2012, 12:07 a.m.

Connellsville police want to know who set fire to an American flag put out in front of a South Pittsburgh Street church for the July 4th holiday.

Sometime between 10:30 a.m. July 1 and 8:30 a.m. July 2, someone set fire to one of the American flags that New Haven Hose Company put out in front of Wesley United Methodist Church.

"My secretary and I were pretty upset by it," said the Rev. David Ealy, pastor at Wesley UMC, who noticed the metal pole and a flag bearing singe marks on July 2.

The flag was one of more than 200 put up by New Haven members along the streets of Connellsville for patriotic holidays -- Memorial Day in May, Independence Day in July and Veterans Day in November. The flags also fly on election days.

The flags are put up by the fire department's flag committee, of which Connellsville Mayor Charles Matthews is a member.Matthews said flags have been stolen previously. He recalled an incident in which someone threw a flag into the Youghiogheny River. The incident this week, though, is the first time that a flag has been burned.

"It's kind of really shocking to me," Matthews said, adding that the department has extra flags and poles if replacement are necessary.

Ealy said the department replaced the flag in front of Wesley UMC in time for the Independence Day observance.Matthews said each flag with the pole can cost $20 to $25.

Ealy said the flag-burning took him by surprise. He believes that area of South Pittsburgh Street has had a few incidents of vandalism.

World War II veteran and Wesley UMC member John "Wally" Schroyer said he is especially shocked.

"It's disgraceful," he said. "This is the first time in my memory someone burned a flag in public in Connellsville," he said.

Schroyer said the only acceptable way to burn a flag is during a retirement ceremony.

"I don't know what we're coming to. They should be arrested and fined," he said. "I fought for the flag in World War II. It's a shame to me someone burned it when they were out looking for something to do."

Connellsville police Detective Kenneth Jaynes said the department has no suspects. Anyone who has information should call 724-628-2501.

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