A New York resident stole a church’s pride flag six times. Now, he faces six counts of petit larceny as a hate crime.
The 21-year-old man, Ronald Tyler Witt, was arrested on Nov. 6 for the theft from Sayville Congregational United Church of Christ.
Witt allegedly stole the first flag on July 29. Pastor Ray Bonguolo claimed he did not report the theft until the second incident due to uncertainty.
"At first I thought it had just been blown off or maybe somebody was messing with it, but then it started happening on a regular basis," he told ABC7. "Two weeks later, it happened again."
A pride flag was stolen again on Sept. 23, Oct. 7, Oct. 15, Oct 20. and Nov. 6.
In August, the pastor placed a sign outside which stated a desire to talk to the thief: “You destroyed our welcoming Rainbow Flag twice. It WAS an act of fear. It IS an act of hate. Do you realize that? IT WAS NOT KIND. IT IS HURTFUL. Instead of doing it again, talk with us. We will talk with you. You, too, are welcome here.”
After the fourth incident, the pastor reported the theft to the police and requested surveillance cameras. Suffolk County Police Hate Crimes Unit complied in September. Eventually, Witt was arrested.
He claimed it was simply a prank, but told officers he "didn't want to see a gay flag on a church."
Bail is set at $12,000, according to ABC7. If Witt is released, he will be under surveillance and must wear a GPS — which is also from a “probationary issue on a separate case,” the publication added.