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Squirrel Blamed For Flag Thefts At Police Memorial

TOLEDO, Ohio ~ (Toledo Blade/ AP) ~ It's not every day that cops catch a thief during the commission of a crime, let alone with a uniformed command officer standing feet away, in broad daylight.

But that's exactly what happened on Wednesday, August 24th. For several days, officers noticed small, American flags were disappearing from the Toledo Police Memorial Garden at the Civic Mall, located in downtown Toledo between the municipal and federal courthouses. They had  no witnesses, no clues at the scene and no suspects or motive to commit the unusual crime.

But then came a huge break in the case; on Wednesday at around 7:15am, Lieutenants James Brown and Mark King watched as a lone, furry, brown bandit took a flag, and a single plastic, pink flower from the memorial garden. "I just saw him eyeballing it," Lieutenant Brown said. "He didn't know I was standing there." The quick-thinking officer did not pull his gun or nightstick, but instead reached for his cell phone to snap a picture of the little perpetrator.

The squirrel stopped for a split-second to glare at the lieutenant, perhaps realizing the jig was up. The suspect fled the crime scene on paws toward the Safety Building; police described the suspect as being a red & brown bushy-tailed critter around nine inches tall, unarmed and not dangerous, but extremely quick. "He was too fast," Lt. Brown said. "I couldn't catch him." Word spread quickly through the department and before long his whereabouts were determined. The squirrel was seen later that afternoon lounging on a tree branch in front of a three-story office building on Erie Street. Woven into a tangle of twigs and leaves were at least two of the small US flags. The flower was not visible, but investigators believe it was used for decoration.

The accused squirrel was unavailable for comment and no charges have been filed in connection with the thefts, and police also believe the squirrel acted alone. It is unclear how many flags have been taken from the garden, but Lt. Brown said at least three are missing. Carefully using its teeth, the critter cut the flag neatly off the small post, leaving the flag unripped and the flagstick intact. "He definitely knew what he was doing," Lt. Brown said. "This wasn't his first time." The lieutenant also added that he cannot prove all the thefts were committed by the same animal. At this time the squirrel may have temporarily left the nest and is currently at large. Police recommend no one try to apprehend him, but instead should take funny pictures to track his activities.

Photo credit: Toledo Police/ Lt. James Brown

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