Police say vandalism of pride flag in Midvale may constitute a hate crime

Posted at 10:34 PM, Apr 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-17 00:34:55-04

MIDVALE, Utah -- Unified Police are investigating what could be a hate crime after a Midvale resident said someone burned a pride flag he displayed in his front yard.

The owner said they set it on fire on the hood of his truck, and the truck was damaged. The flag’s ashes were left in a pile for Christian Roberts to find Saturday morning.

His rainbow-colored flag waved with a large show of support to the LGBT community on his front porch.

“This is all that’s left of it,” Roberts said, showing off a singed piece of fabric. “Scorched up the hood of the truck pretty good.”

It’s now the size of a handkerchief.

Roberts said he first noticed the flag when he left his house to start up his truck, which he was trying to sell. He said potential buyers were coming to take a look at it.

“I saw something small and bright and colorful on the hood, and it turned out to be the flag that we fly off of our porch, and it was all burned up,” he said.

Roberts called police.

“It was deliberate, someone wants to send a message,” he said. “ I was more disappointed than anything else.”

Police said if someone did indeed want to send a message by burning a flag that represents support for the LGBT community, the mound of ashes would stack up to a felony crime.

“Obviously this can be a very serious crime,” said Chief Deputy Justin Hoyal with the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office. “It could potentially be a hate crime what these individuals have done.”

At the very least, he said it’s a case of vandalism. The person responsible could see a misdemeanor charge.

Roberts said, luckily, he was able to sell his truck a few hours later, even with the damaged hood. He keeps a backup flag that he’s already hung up, and he said he ordered a new one to replace the one that was destroyed.

Roberts said in the end, “I think it was a moment of foolishness. And I think everybody should just be able to get on with their lives, and not have to worry about each other… except in a good way.”

And, he said, this would help: “Whoever you are, you kind of owe me an apology. And if you want to just knock on my door and give it, that would be really cool."

Roberts added that this isn’t the first times a rainbow flag’s been targeted in front of his house. He said someone stole a pride flag from his porch last year, and the burnt flag was the replacement.

The flag waving there now is the third pride flag he’s hung up in front of his house.

Chief Deputy Hoyal said they haven’t identified any suspects, and they are asking anyone with information to call Unified Police at 801-743-7000.