Over the past few weeks, police in Winona have been investigating more than a dozen reports of someone burning American flags outside homes in the city.
Officers say the first flag burning incident was reported July 29, and the latest one took place this Tuesday. While the crime itself is disturbing, community members say they're concerned for what else might go up in flames.
"They're all disgusted, and they're scared somebody’s going to get hurt or burn down a house or something," says Winona resident Danny Hauser. His flag was burned about three weeks ago, leaving gaping holes in the bottom, and yet again Tuesday night, burning another hole in its edge.
"What kind of people would do that to our American flag? No respect," he says.
Officers say so far, 15 burned flags have been reported, all of them taking place on the west side of Winona and most of them attached to homes. That includes Patty Harris's flag, just blocks away from Hauser.
"It's very disturbing to find that not only have they burned the flag, but they burned it attached to my house," Harris said.
There is nothing left of her flag but charred and melted pieces of fabric stuck to her sidewalk.
"It had to happen overnight, so while we were sleeping," she says. "Our bedroom is [right inside the window]. It's hard to imagine why someone would do that."
"It makes me pretty disgusted," Hauser says.
While he's appalled by the action, he isn't backing down from his beliefs.
"We're going to put up a new flag maybe tonight, and a camera, and see what's going on," Hauser says.
Officers are stepping up enforcement with the hope of catching the culprit before more damage is done.
"It's despicable," says Police Chief Paul Bostrack. "Our staff here is committed to finding out who's doing this."
Officers say so far, no houses or other property have caught on fire from the burning flags. They are holding a meeting Thursday night at 6 p.m. at Winona's American Legion Hall to talk with residents about the problem.
If you have any information on the crime, or see something suspicious going on in your neighborhood that you think might be related, police are asking to you immediately call 911, or Winona dispatch at 507-457-6492.