Police looking for 5 men in flags mystery at the Brooklyn Bridge; reward offered

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Thursday, July 24, 2014
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Marci Gonzalez reports on the NYPD investigation.

BROOKLYN BRIDGE (WABC) -- A new reward has been announced in connection with the mysterious Brooklyn Bridge flag switch.

The $5,000 reward is being offered by private Brooklyn resident for apprehension of suspects, according to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said he is personally funding a reward for information leading to an arrest.

Police are monitoring social media to try to track down who replaced the American flags with bleached white flags early Tuesday morning. Right now, investigators believe it was a prank.

They are looking for five men, believed to be in their early 20s, who are suspected of swapping out the two large American flags atop the Brooklyn Bridge with the bleached ones. There are no solid leads on their identities. Officials continue to believe this was a foolish stunt.

Adams confirmed a report that the New York City Police Department has nicknames of possible suspects. Detectives are now trying to learn their real names. He also said that security is being brought up to date on the bridge, which includes adding more cameras.

John Miller, deputy commissioner of intelligence of the NYPD, said surveillance video shows a group of five people crossing the bridge around 3:10 a.m. Tuesday, the light that illuminates the American flag on the Brooklyn tower went out. About 15 minutes later, the light went out on the Manhattan tower. By dawn, construction workers noticed the American flags had been replaced by white flags.

Detectives are particularly interested in any group of people who have had access to the Brooklyn Bridge, for example, city employees, construction workers, climbers, even pyrotechnic specialists, because the Macy's fireworks were partially staged on the bridge.

The NYPD removed the white flags just before noon Tuesday from poles on the stone supports that hold cables above the bridge. Miller said it appeared the 20 foot by 11 foot flags were bleached American flags. There were faint traces of stars and stripes on them. Police also found what appeared to be large aluminum pans that had been affixed as covers, secured with zip ties.

Miller said whoever did it appeared to have some climbing experience and possibly had done bridge work.

"At this time no nexis to terrorism or politics. This could be someone's art project or someone's statement. We're just not clear what that statement is," Miller said.


"Whatever the motive was, it is a matter of concern. I'm not particularly happy about the event," Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.

Officers in patrol cars are stationed at both ends of the bridge, which is constantly monitored by surveillance cameras.

More than 120,000 vehicles, 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 bicyclists cross the Brooklyn Bridge every day, according to the city's Department of Transportation, which maintains the bridge.

The flags fly from above the pillars year-round and are replaced by DOT workers when they become frayed, police said. They are lit from the bottom by a lamp at the base of each tower at night.