The desecration of three American flags, which closely follows the theft of five others, has Hood River Police Chief Tony Dirks worried about citizen retaliation.
"I just don't get vandalism like this and I'm really concerned because these acts build up momentum," said Dirks.
These incidents have led an anonymous citizen to offer a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Those dollars have been added to the special fund already set up by the Hood River City Council for apprehension and sentencing of the whoever stole the community's symbolic flag from the corner of 12th and May streets between Sept. 18-19.
Late Thursday night or early Friday morning two flags were cut down and one support pole destroyed in a Prospect Avenue neighborhood. That followed Monday's discovery that a large flag had been burned and draped over the swingset at Wilson Park. Dirks believes the charred flag could be the stolen Hood River tribute to the thousands of people who lost their lives in terrorist attacks on the East Coast.
"This cuts to the core," said Andy Shown, a staff sergeant in the Oregon Air National Guard who has 16 years of military background.
He and his wife, Audrea, discovered that, sometime in the early morning hours of Oct. 12 the metal flagpole embedded in their yard had been bent to the ground and all but a tattered remnant of their flag had been removed by a knife. He said the event was very upsetting to the family's three children: Christopher, 11, Kimberly, 9, and Cameron, 6.
"My daughter was in tears, she cried all the way to the babysitter's house because that was daddy's flag," said Andy.
In fact, Andy said he had obtained the flag while in the Boy Scouts 20 years before and, following the Sept. 11 attack on the East Coast, had felt it was time to unfurl the banner and show his family's patriotic spirit.
"If this was done by kids, I guess they really should pay attention to their history -- this is not a perfect country but you won't find anything better than this," said Andy.
"The citizens of Hood River are just not going to tolerate the willful destruction of private property," said Lynn Guenther, city manager. "It's really apparent that the people doing this have no real appreciation for the number of men and women who have died for the ideals the flag stands for."
He said all calls and the disbursement of the reward monies will be confidential and people with information are asked to call the police department at 386-3942.
"We will prosecute violators to the fullest extent of the law and, if the perpetrators are juveniles, we will hold their parents and/or guardians responsible because these incidents become infectious if they are not stopped," said Guenther.