Suspect charged following vandalism of 18 American flags around Memorial Day

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – The vandalism of more than a dozen American flags near a local monument for veterans happened last week, just a few days after Memorial Day, and local officials are still in shock.

Damage was done to the flags in what’s called “The Field of Flags” right by the Niagara Falls Veterans Memorial park. This is the second year that they’ve been put up between Memorial Day and July 4. Last Thursday, leaders say someone committed the ultimate sign of disrespect, vandalizing 18 of these flag poles by snapping them.

There are 800 flags in the field representing each service member from Western New York killed in action. More than 7,000 names of service members from across the country are on the Walls of Honor. 468 of those names represent those killed in action from Niagara Falls and are located on the centerpiece. The Niagara Falls Veterans Monument Commission says the suspect also threw rocks at the centerpiece.

“It’s unacceptable, I don’t know what goes through peoples’ minds. They think they have the right to do something like that. It’s a tragedy and I think we have to step up and not take it anymore,” said Stan Zimmerman of the Niagara Falls Veterans Monument Commission.

The monument was dedicated in 2011. Leaders say there’s been other vandalism in the past to a bench at the park. Police have charged 25-year-old Chase Wilson of Niagara Falls with criminal mischief on this latest incident.

“To do this, there’s something wrong. There may be some issues that this gentleman has, might be a little more deep than anybody knows. We just want him to know that what he did is so vile and so disgusting,” said Kenny Tompkins, a former city council member.

The flags that were damaged were repaired that day using duct tape. Leaders here are seeking federal charges. Wilson is expected to return back to court Thursday.

Leaders who care for the monument say they’re working on getting security cameras on the grounds.

Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.

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