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Surveillance video shows person stealing Pride flag from several Utah homes

Jun 23, 2023, 6:44 PM | Updated: 9:08 pm

TOOELE COUNTY, Utah — The Tooele County Sheriff’s Office and Tooele City Police are working together to figure out who has been stealing Pride flags from homes across the county, saying the person could potentially be charged with a hate crime.

One of those homes belongs to Jon Andrus and his husband.

With wind chimes softly jingling in the wind, Andrus pointed to gnomes of all sizes that sit sprinkled among perfectly manicured plants in his garden.

“We’re always adding some new little kitsch item that I’ve found that I’ve found somewhere for cheap or maybe not cheap,” he said, with a chuckle.

Andrus takes pride in his whimsical front yard, that he wants the whole neighborhood to be able to enjoy.

“We also want people to feel welcome,” he said. “We’ll have the neighbors over, and their kids will come and play in the yard.”

For the month of June, Jon’s yard display has included, for the first time, a Pride flag. He said normally he has an American flag hanging up, but he felt it was important to display the flag for Pride month this year.

“This year because we were on the garden tour I really wanted to emphasize that, because we had the ability to make others feel seen that normally aren’t,” he said.

But this last Sunday morning, someone who saw that flag ran up and decided to destroy Jon’s display.

Ring doorbell video, as well as surveillance above the garage, shows someone with a hood over their head run up to the home, ripping out the Pride flag and running off. The person broke the flag holder, which was screwed into the wall.

Jon explained that at first, he thought the flag blew away in the wind until he reviewed the video footage.

“The feelings you get when you see somebody on your property and that has mal-intent, right?” He expressed. “This time it was just a flag, but who knows what else somebody’s going to come up and do?”

Watching the person rip the flag down was upsetting to Jon, and especially his husband.

“To have someone to come up and just rip that down, it really felt like a personal attack,” he said.

Several other people in Tooele County told KSL TV they’ve also had their Pride flags disappear, with many capturing a very similar-looking thief on camera.

“It appeared to be the same person. Same hoodie, even,” said Marissa Perkins, who lives in Stansbury Park.

She said someone tore down her Pride flag a few weeks ago. She hung up another.

Two nights ago, it appeared the same person returned and jumped up to grab onto the new flag, hanging off of it until the flag tore off of the home.

“The second one, I bolted into the stucco,” Marissa explained. “They used their weight and kind of ripped it down this time.”

Tooele City PD and the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office said Friday they are working together to investigate what appears to be related thefts of Pride flags.

The sheriff’s office explained they were following up on tips and leads, hoping to tie all the cases together.

If caught, the person responsible could face charges including theft, destruction of property, and– depending on motive and intent– hate crime.

A neighbor Jon has never met saw his post on social media and replaced his flag with two more flags, that he has since hung up– though one is hanging in his backyard as he works on replacing his flagpole and holder.

Jon and Marissa expressed the hope that the community can understand why this is so hurtful to them.

This isn’t just a teen prank, Jon said, or a monetary issue. It’s the principle of it. “It’s the right and wrong. And they did wrong,” he said.

“There’s no reason, regardless of what you believe, to be cruel to each other,” Jon said. “You just need to treat each other with kindness and respect.”

Marissa echoed those same thoughts.

“We’re all human,” she said. “We all deserve the same amount of respect.”

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Surveillance video shows person stealing Pride flag from several Utah homes