DENTON, Texas - The Denton County Sheriff’s Office is looking for a vandal who ripped out nine American flags on display outside the courthouse in the town square just a day before the anniversary of 9/11.
The man has already been identified as 29-year-old Matthew Emerson Reynolds, and the sheriff hopes to arrest him soon.
The Denton County Sheriff’s Office posted about the suspect Wednesday morning. By noon, Reynolds was identified thanks to tips from the public. He’s now facing a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief.
There was steady traffic at 6:30 p.m. Monday when cameras in the Denton square show the vandal riding up on a bike, then tossing one of the rotary club’s American flags at drivers in traffic. A few seconds later, the driver of one car gets out to put the flag back.
“I don’t care what your political affiliation is. I don’t care how you feel about the flag,” said Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree. “I don’t care how you feel about the president. You can’t destroy other people’s property.”
It all happened near the corner of Oak and Elm Street where J.T. Clothier on the square sits.
“I was horrified,” said store employee Ben Marsh. “I didn’t think I’d see anything like that in the Denton square.”
Employees believe the flag seen in the video is the one that was outside their store.
“I think it’s completely disrespectful to the country as a whole and everything that every single person out here stands for,” Marsh said.
The Denton Rotary Club places hundreds of flags around town throughout the year on holidays as their biggest annual fundraiser.
“It seems to happen a little bit every year. Flags are either stolen or vandalized,” said Denton Rotary Club VP Randy Sudderth.
The flags typically bring in about 20-thousand dollars a year for local charities and scholarships.
“It’s money out of the club’s pocket, which is money out of local youth charity projects we support,” Sudderth said.
The Denton County Sheriff’s Office is familiar with the suspect. Reynolds has been arrested before for criminal trespass and giving false information to a police officer.
“We’ve got you on video. We’re going to find you, and you’re going to be arrested,” Murphree said. “I promise you when you go around desecrating the United States flag, people will turn you in.”
It is not the first time something like this has happened. About this time last year, the Denton County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Fort Worth firefighter for vandalizing a flag placed in the square.
If convicted, Reynolds could face up to 180 days in jail and fines.