Willmar police are asking the community to identify four individuals suspected in two flag-burning incidents over the weekend.
Police posted photos of the four suspects to the Willmar Police Department Facebook page, and while the photos are anything but lucid, they're reaching out to the public for leads.
Willmar Police Chief David Wyffels told the West Central Tribune that the two burning incidents occurred after 1 a.m. on Saturday -- one at Kitchen Fair along the 300 block of Fifth Street Southwest and the other at Midas Auto along the 700 block of Litchfield Avenue Southwest. The two incidents are believed to be connected.
"I think anybody who lives in the United States knows the symbolism of the United States flag," said Bruce Dexter, of Kitchen Fair.
Managers of the businesses reported the flag damage Saturday morning.
"When I came and [saw] the ashes of the pole burned, it got a little tough," Dexter told FOX 9 News.
Dexter has owned Kitchen Fair for about 30 years, and the security video was caught by his cameras. He flies the flag in honor of all veterans, but also for his own brother, who died in Vietnam at the age of 19.
"It hits the heart, especially with Memorial Day just a couple weeks ago," he said. "Those memories come back."
A new flag went up almost immediately, and Wyffels said the incident will not break the spirit of the small town.
"We're all American. We take pride in our country, take pride in the flag," he said. "It's symbolism for what we believe in."
At Midas, the reaction was much the same. The manager said customers and employees saw the burned flag, and some were crying. One said it felt like standing over a dead body."
Wyffels said neither incident indicates any connection to a larger anti-American effort, and while they are concerning, the acts do not pose any danger to the public.
Anyone with any information can call either Det. Kris Kolstad at 320-214-6700 ext. 3214 or the dispatch number at 320-235-2244.
Willmar Police Department Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/CityofWillmarPolice?fref=ts