York-Poquoson Sheriff’s deputies say they arrested a 23-year-old man who threw an American flag on the ground, poured gas on it and set it on fire Thursday outside Walmart.
The Sheriff’s Office posted a video of the man who was arrested, Mitchell Lee Stauffer of Williamsburg, on Facebook late Thursday. The post said Stauffer was charged with burning an object in a public place with the intent to intimidate.
YPSO spokeswoman Shelley Ward said officers received a call about a flag burning at the Walmart on Route 17 at around 9:13 a.m. Thursday.
In the video captured by a Walmart employee, Stauffer can be seen lighting the flag — which immediately bursts into flames — before getting into a car parked next to the it. YPSO said Stauffer was yelling as he lit the flag, “making bystanders very nervous.”
By Thursday afternoon, a large scorch mark in the parking lot was the only evidence of the incident.
“The burning of our great American Flag is very offensive to most people including me,” Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Diggs said in the Facebook post. “That being said, the courts have ruled that act alone is an expression of free speech and not per se illegal.”
The charge Stauffer faces is a Class 6 felony, punishable by one to five years in jail or a $2,500 fine.
© 2019 the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.