All that remains of the American flag that was once attached to the side of Tom Hundt’s house on Fairfax Street are a blackened pole and tiny pieces of charred fabric. The area below where the flag once proudly hung is now covered with remnants of smoldering pieces of the flag, which dropped onto his garbage bin lid and melted the plastic. “It’s upsetting,” said Hundt, who returned from work early Wednesday morning to find his flag literally up in smoke. “I was shocked, definitely shocked. It just upsets me that someone burned it right on the house.”
Hundt’s flag is the 12th American flag burned in Winona in the past few weeks. While the majority of flags have been burned along West Fifth Street, there have also been flag burnings reported at residences on Fairfax Street, West Fourth Street and West Broadway Street. Although no one has been harmed, Winona Police warn that there is still potential for serious arson due to the placement of the burned flags. “It seems to be flags that are attached to homes rather than poles,” said Winona Police Officer Chris Nelson, adding, “many of the homes have been occupied [at the time of the burnings].”
Hundt believes the incident at his home occurred sometime between midnight, when his wife went to bed, and 3:30 a.m., when he arrived home from work. “My biggest concern was my wife; she was asleep when it happened,” Hundt said. “It’s not only disrespectful to the flag, [but it is disrespectful] to people’s property and to people’s lives.”
In Minnesota it is considered a misdemeanor to publicly desecrate an American flag. The 12 cases that have occurred in Winona would also be considered damage to property crimes, which are misdemeanors when up to $1,000 in property damage occurs. Damage to property resulting in the loss of more than $1,000 in property is considered a felony.
Currently, police have no suspects.
As for Hundt, he said that he will not be deterred from putting out another American flag. “I’m definitely going to put [another American flag] back up,” Hundt said. “I’m a big supporter of vets and I love America.”
If you have information regarding the recent flag burnings contact the Winona Police Department at (507) 457-6302..