Gay pride flag in Lyons woman's yard torched - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Lyons police investigate suspicious gay flag burning

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A Lyons woman says she is living in fear after someone burned her rainbow flag, a sign of her gay pride.

However, is it a hate crime? Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker tells WTOC they have no suspects, which makes it hard to call it a hate crime. Right now, it is a criminal damage to property case. The victim, Jennifer Tuttle, a lesbian and a mother of two, told WTOC she is scared and worries the person responsible may come back and do something worse.

Her neighbors tell me they have no question in their minds it's a hate crime.

"What else could it be? I mean, why else would you sneak onto somebody's yard in the middle of the night and do something so cruel. Why would someone do that? It was just cruel. Out of place," Rita Smith told WTOC.

Smith said she has known Jennifer Tuttle for three years since Smith moved next door. She saidTuttle has always been quiet and respectful and Smith supported her when Tuttle decided to fly the flag in her front yard to show her support of gay rights. 

On May 4, Smith came home and found Tuttle's flag had been burnt, and a piece of it was on the ground. Tuttle called the Lyons Police Dept. and said she has been scared ever since. She said police told her someone had to use a chemical to light the flag on fire. 

"I don't know if they targeted me or if they wanted to send a message about gay people, but I had to take extra security risks with my home because I don't know why anyone would burn the flag. I won't put another one out because I don't know what they might do," Tuttle told WTOC over the phone.

Due to a family emergency, Tuttle could not appear on camera to tell her story Tuesday night, but Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker said he has assured Tuttle her safety, and has promised extra patrols if she asks for them.

Walker said his investigators are looking for the public's help for leads on who burned the flag and whether it is connected to other recent crimes in the area and if it could be a hate crime.

"At this point, we don't know because we don't have any suspects. We don't have a motive and until we can establish that, then it is just another investigation to us," Walker said. "If we get a suspect and establish it is a hate crime, then we will pursue that in prosecution."

"I don't know. I don't know if it was somebody thinking they were being funny. It wasn't funny. I thought it was cruel," Smith said. "She put her flag out because she was proud of it. There was no reason for anyone to do any damage to it. She doesn't bother any body."

The chief said anyone who has any information on the Lyons gay pride flag burning should call the Lyons police at 912.526.3621 or send them an email. It happened between the evenings of May 3 and May 4 in the Washington Street area.

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