ORCAS ISLAND, Wash. – Vandals burned dozens of small American flags that decorated veterans’ graves for Memorial Day and replaced many of them with hand-drawn swastikas, authorities said Monday.
Charred flag tatters were found still attached to 33 small flag standards at Woodlawn Cemetery, while 46 of the standards were found empty Sunday, authorities said.
Sheets of paper bearing swastikas drawn with what appeared to be red and black felt-tipped pens had been taped to 14 of the vandalized flag standards, Sheriff Bill Cumming said.
Members of the American Legion on this island off Washington’s northwest coast replaced the burned flags with new ones Sunday afternoon.
The vandals repeated the stunt on Memorial Day after a guard left at dawn, replacing 33 of the small flags with more hand-drawn swastikas, the sheriff’s office said.
Investigators believe there’s more than one culprit, based on the number of flags that were vandalized, but they have no leads on any possible suspects, Cumming said.
The sheriff said deputies were trying to lift fingerprints off what little physical evidence they were able to recover and were asking people on this bucolic island to contact the sheriff’s office.
“We don’t view this as free speech,” Cumming said.
“We view this as a hate crime, and it’s being investigated as such.”