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Winona police release photos of 'person of interest' in flag burnings

WINONA — The Winona Police Department released several photos at Thursday's public meeting evening of a male deemed a "person of interest" in the recent string of flag burnings in Winona.

The photos were pulled from surveillance footage of the most recent late-night arson, which occurred before sunrise on Thursday. It shows a 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10 male who is in his late teens or early 20s setting fire to a flag hanging near the front door of a home on the west side of Winona, according to Winona Police Chief Paul Bostrack.

Sixteen such incidents have been reported since July 29, which prompted Thursday's special public meeting at the Winona American Legion. The meeting was organized by Winona City Council member Gerry Krage and saw dozens attend.

No injuries have been reported from the fires and minimal damage to homes has been reported, but Bostrack and others are concerned that a stray spark caused by the vandals could lead to a serious incident.

While it is legal to burn the American flag as a form of free speech, which is typically done in protest, Bostrack says the perpetrator in these burnings will face criminal charges if he's apprehended. The severity of the charges will be dictated by the damages and injuries, if any, the actions have causes over the past three weeks.


However, the flag burnings have touched a nerve among area veterans.

"I would say just plain disgusted," said Sam Sasser, Commander of the American Legion in Winona. "It's a terrible, unpatriotic thing to do. It's a travesty to our country."

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