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21-year-old charged with hate crime after stealing LGBTI flags from church

21-year-old charged with hate crime after stealing LGBTI flags from church

Hate crime rainbow flag new york

A 21-year-old man has been arrested on hate crime charges linked to the repeat theft of rainbow flags from a church.

Ronald Tyler Witt from Sayville, New York, was arrested at his home on Tuesday (6 November). The house sits just four blocks from the Sayville Congregational United Church of Christ, where the flags were stolen, according to the Suffolk County Police Department.

The reverend of the church, Ray Bagnuolo, is openly gay and displayed the flags on the church’s lawn. They sat alongside an American flag and a prisoner of war flag.

However, those two flags were never stolen. The first theft of the LGBTI flag occurred in July. Police were contacted after several other flags were stolen.

Witt was arrested on suspicion of six counts of petit larceny as a hate crime. He will face the First District Court in Central Islip in Long Island.

Only the rainbow flags were stolen

Bagnuolo told ABC News he was happy about the arrest – and that he forgave him.

He said: ‘I’m happy they found out who he is and that it can stop because it was unnerving. These types of things are meant often to send a message.

‘Sometimes they’re just a dumb thing that people do, but repeated over and over it begins to feel like there’s targeting going on here and there’s a message.’

When the second flag was stolen, the reverend put up a sign in front of the church that said: ‘You destroyed our welcoming Rainbow Flag twice. It WAS an act of fear. It IS an of hate. Do you realize that? IT WAS NOT KIND. IT IS HURTFUL.

‘Instead of doing it again, talk with us. We will talk with you. You, too, are welcome here.’

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