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Arlington couple turns to social media for answers after series of Pride flag thefts

Michelle Logan and Jenna Burnett’s dogs watch over their Pride flag from the second floor of their home in Penrose (courtesy of Michelle Logan)

Michelle Logan and her partner Jenna Burnett celebrated their moving in together and the end of Pride month last July by displaying a rainbow flag in front of their house.

But two months later, while looking out the window of their Penrose home one morning, the couple noticed the flag had vanished. All that remained was a mangled flag pole.

Upon reviewing footage from their Ring camera, the couple observed a man dressed in a cowboy hat forcefully remove the flag from its resting place around 2:35 a.m. on Sept. 16, 2023. He can then be seen fleeing with two other people on foot, heading north along S. Courthouse Road.

After that night, the couple would have their Pride flag stolen from their porch four more times. Logan has posted four of the five incidents to the social media site X, formerly Twitter, and provided regular updates on Reddit.

“To us, this isn’t just about a flag being stolen. Each time this happens is really violating and scary,” Logan told ARLnow in an email. “It’s a reminder that a lot of work still needs to be done for LGBTQ+ communities to feel comfortable and supported being their full selves, and loving who they want to love.”

Although the footage didn’t provide a clear view of the culprit, Logan and Burnett said they filed a police report.

In defiance of the vandal, the couple purchased a new flag pole, and several friends, along with the Arlington-based community organization The Kindness Activist, donated flags.

Two weeks later, they again faced the theft of their Pride flag by a man in a cowboy hat. This time, in addition to reporting the incident to Arlington County police, Logan and Burnett shared the footage on Nextdoor, hoping the community could help identify the individual.

“Our friend even made a funny ‘Have you seen this anti-LGBTQ+ cowboy?’ flag and we hung it up to make light of the situation,” Logan said.

A flag mocking the cowboy hat-wearing Pride flag thief (courtesy of Michelle Logan)

After a third flag was stolen on Dec. 16, Logan and Burnett appeared on WUSA9 to raise awareness about the multiple incidents. They pledged to donate $100 to the Trevor Project, an international suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ youth, for each previous and subsequent theft of their flag, for a total of $300.

“We then put another flag up because we didn’t want to let him stop us from being ourselves and sharing who we are,” Logan said.

The fourth theft took place last Sunday, Jan. 21, at 2:14 a.m. This time, the thief’s face was captured on camera but it is unclear whether this individual was the same person seen wearing a cowboy hat during the initial two thefts.

Subsequently, an ACPD detective was assigned to the case, according to Logan.

A week later, a man wearing a black “Army” sweatshirt was captured on the couple’s Ring camera violently ripping the Pride flag from its pole on Friday at 2:11 a.m.

After sharing footage of the latest incident on social media, Logan and Burnett said they received an outpouring of support. Reddit users also joined the effort to identify the perpetrators. Given the Army sweatshirt and the close-cropped haircut of the person seen on camera, some speculated the perpetrators reside at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, a short walk from the couple’s home.

“We raised over $1,000 to the Trevor Project through an Instagram fundraiser and via spreading the word on Reddit and Twitter, received messages from people who said they may know these people on base at Fort Myer and that the base was conducting an immediate investigation,” Logan said.

“We even had a slew of people trying to reverse look up images of these people and sharing widely with friends and followers,” she added. “And, 16 strangers from the internet helped fund a stock of new flags for [when or if] this happens again.”

A spokesperson for Myer-Henderson Hall, Sherry Kuiper, told ARLnow the base is aware of the flag thefts.

“We recognize the value of a diverse force that promotes equity and inclusion and are providing support, as requested, to Arlington County law enforcement officials who are leading the investigation,” she said.

The Arlington County Police Department tells ARLnow that the investigation is ongoing and investigators are seeking help from members of the public.

“Anyone with information or home surveillance that may assist the investigation is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s tip line at 703-228-4179 or [email protected],” said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).”

Logan and Burnett noted they remain optimistic that the culprits will be identified.

“Regardless of these three hateful people, we feel incredibly lucky that the city of Arlington and a community of internet friends have our backs,” Logan said. “It makes being ourselves a little easier and as cheesy as it sounds, we just hope this helps further promote acceptance and empathy.”

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