Investigation continues: Vandalized flags quickly replaced

Greenwich police continue to investigate the vandalism against the American flags placed alongside the Mianus River Bridge in Cos Cob.

It was discovered last week on the Fourth of July that several of the flags had been stolen and the flagpoles broken. It’s not clear yet when specifically the vandalism took place, but it was found last Wednesday morning when Greenwich was getting ready for its Independence Day celebration. However, the flags were quickly replaced by 2:30 that afternoon by the members of the Cos Cob Volunteer Fire Co., which sponsored the project this year.

The flags were placed along both sides of the bridge this past May by the fire company and other volunteers. There were 10 flags put on each side, but after the incident, there were only four flags left along one side and nine on the other. Several of the fiberglass flagpoles were also snapped and have since been removed. The flags were seen in good condition last Tuesday evening, July 3, so it is speculated right now that the incident took place late Tuesday close to midnight.

No details have been released by the Police Department, but this is considered to be an active investigation. Lt. Kraig Gray, public information officer for the Greenwich Police Department, told the Post last week that the Police Department was looking at surveillance footage from nearby businesses to determine if it would provide any information. He urged anyone who had information in the case to call the department’s tip line at 203-622-3333.

Cos Cob Volunteer Fire Co. Chief John Pugney told the Post that he had put a call out to the members of the department and people in the community to replace the flags and that people immediately responded, making it possible to get the replacements up before many in town even knew the originals were gone. The flags, which are up for the second year and have become a rather iconic summer image for people driving along Route 1 across the bridge, were bought by the fire company.

“The fiberglass poles were splintered, so it looks like whoever did this grabbed ahold of them and snapped them down,” Chief Pugney said. “They weren’t able to break the flagpoles out of the brackets, but they were able to split the fiberglass into a bunch of strips. They ripped the flags off them and took them.”

Chief Pugney said the Fire Department had enough poles left from last year to be able to get the flags up after new ones were donated and purchased. He said that a member of the community even donated $100 to replace the stolen flags.

“People were upset,” Chief Pugney said. “They couldn’t believe that this had happened.”

The missing flags were reportedly not found at the scene. Lt. Gray said there was another incident involving a flag stolen off a resident’s house last week but it wasn’t known yet if there was any connection. Additionally, there was vandalism of windows at Post Wine & Spirits along the Post Road, not too far from where the flags are. While this incident appears to have taken place at the same time frame as the flag vandalism there is not any evidence yet to connect the two.

The flags are a passion project of Selectman David Theis, who spearheaded the effort to have them first put up last year. He was at the scene to help clean up the damage and later spoke to the Post about how pleased he was to see something good come out of the act of vandalism. He said the community worked hard to get the flags up so quickly, and he credited Chief Pugney, Steve Francefort and the other members of the Cos Cob Volunteer Co. with making sure it took only hours for things to be back to normal.

“It was very impressive how much people rallied around getting this fixed as quickly as possible,” Mr. Theis said. “And since the word about this got out, so many people have come up to me asking how something like this could happen and being really shocked that someone would do this. They’ve been so happy to see the flags back up and they couldn’t believe it got fixed so quickly. The credit for that has to go to the Cos Cob Volunteer Fire Co. They really hopped to and got the replacement flags up. That really shows the kind of character we have in this community. They weren’t going to let something like this get us down.”

The flags have become quite popular for the two summers they’ve been up. When the flags returned last May, the volunteers putting them up were greeted with honks of support from passing drivers and shouts of thank-you. Chief Pugney said it was disappointing to see this happen now.

“It’s disrespectful, not only to the country, but to the men and women who are fighting for the freedom that these people are living under,” Chief Pugney said.

With the incident happening so close to the Fourth of July, Chief Pugney said he didn’t think the timing was a coincidence. Mr. Theis thought the timing was very “curious” as well.

“I personally hope this was the act of some misguided youth and a vandalism as opposed to someone who holds a different belief than we do in America,” Mr. Theis said. “If that’s the case, though, then that person should just go back where they came from. If you can’t live under our laws then we don’t need you here. You have to show respect.”

Chief Pugney said that he just hopes whoever is responsible doesn’t regard this as a harmless prank.

“People have to understand how serious this is,” Chief Pugney said. “We take our colors seriously here. These are the colors of our country, and you have to respect them.”

Lt. Gray later added, “As a veteran and a police officer, I would defend anyone’s constitutional right to express themselves. However, taking and damaging someone else’s property is vandalism and it’s a completely different matter.”


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