Middletown man caught stealing flags, flagpoles ahead of Memorial Day weekend

Police say the man had been living in a nearby abandoned home

Middletown flag thief foiled

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (FOX19) - A man has been accused of walking up to porches in Middletown and stealing American flags ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

Meghan Murphy woke up to a stranger rustling around right outside her bedroom window on Shafor Street.

"I was getting up in the middle of the night to feed the baby and my phone went off and I was watching it,” said Murphy.

He walked right past the warning sign posted in bold letters that the home was under video surveillance.

“I was freaked out and didn’t want to get up and go do something because what am I gonna do?” she laughed. “So I woke up my husband."

The Murphys ran outside and saw him along the side of their house, dragging a flag on the ground. They called police, but had no idea it was their flag which was missing, until her husband looked out as police were leaving the scene.

Meghan posted the video on the NextDoor app and Facebook. Then, not 24 hours later on Friday, someone posted they saw him near a park two blocks from her home. So she packed up her newborn and 2-year-old in the stroller, and headed for the park.

"I walked right up the street and it was like he was sitting there waiting for me, he was trying to break into a porta potty,” said Murphy.

She called police, who she said got there within two minutes of her call.

"There were four police officers that surrounded him,” she said.

Police told her he had been living in an abandoned house off Monroe, where they found several flags and poles, then selling the poles for scrap, they believe.

"Multiple other neighbors have lost their flags and flagpoles,” said Murphy. “It’s not just a flag! It’s THE flag! We take it very seriously, yes!”

Up and down the block Old Glory flies everywhere. Even Kathy Cole’s flowers are a patriotic, red, white and blue.

"Because I love it,” said Cole.

She said she had just put her brand new American flag out the same day the Murphy’s was stolen right across the street. She knows what it feels like to be stolen from.

"Three people walked up on my porch and stole a box full of blankets that I ordered,” she said.

Luckily, a neighbor chased them down, she said. The trio threw the box at the neighbor as they climbed into a car and got away, but at least she was able to keep her purchase.

"All of our neighbors, we look out for each other,” said Murphy.

Murphy said the family of the suspect recognized him in her video and reached out to her on the NextDoor app claiming he was a good guy until drugs took over his life. They also wrote he’s better off in the jail, that maybe he’ll get the help he needs.

He was brought to Butler County, where he apparently had outstanding warrants.

Murphy said her and her neighbors are just grateful he’s no longer creeping around their houses anymore.

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