Man burns American flag flying outside Richmond home

Posted at 11:47 AM, Jun 28, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. -- Police are investigating after video of a man setting an American flag on fire outside a Richmond home was shared online.

James Tanner said he discovered the vandalism when he woke up and checked footage from the Nest cam focused on his front porch.

The video showed a man, who Tanner did not recognize, approach Tanner's home at Floyd and Lombardy in Richmond's Fan District.

It appeared, at first, that the man attempted to untie the American flag from the flag holder.

When it did not come untied, the video showed the man pull out a lighter and set the flag on fire.

Once the flag is lit, the man walked away.

"This is vandalism and you have somebody that totally disregards the safety of the people around there," Tanner said. "It is also totally disregard what the flag represents."

The incident was recorded at 2:15 a.m., he said.

Tanner, who has lived in his home more than 15 years, said his neighborhood was usually uneventful.

He said he was "very concerned" because the fire could have spread to his home.

"It was a synthetic flag, so it just melted," he said.

He said he believed the man set the flag on fire, not out of protest, but out of stupidity.

"I don't think this was about burning an American flag. I think this is about, well, I can't get this unhooked so I'm just going to catch it on fire," Tanner said.

In Virginia, burning a flag with malice against the law and can result in a misdemeanor criminal charge.  The charred flag pole was still attached to the home Wednesday afternoon, and CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone said that detail could result in a felony charge.

" That makes it a much more serious offense because it could catch the house on fire and cause risk to the people inside," Stone said.

For neighbors who live down the street from Tanner, the incident is troubling for several reasons.

"The whole front porch could have caught on fire. Now, knowing it was one of my neighbors, my house could have caught on fire. So it could have been a really bad situation," said Joseph Lawson, who lives three houses down from Tanner.  "You got to know how controversial that is, whether he's trying to make a protest or not."

Witnesses can email news tips and photos here.

Anyone with information can call Richmond Police at 804-646-5100 or Crime Stoppers at 780-1000.



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