Man caught on video setting American flag on fire outside Staten Island home on Flag Day

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Friday, June 16, 2023
Man caught on video setting American flag on fire on Flag Day
Video shows the suspect setting a flag on fire outside a Staten Island home Wednesday near Nugent and Midland avenues.

MIDLAND BEACH, Staten Island (WABC) -- A man is under arrest after police say he lit an American flag on fire outside a home on Staten Island on Flag Day.

Ring camera video caught the suspect in the act in the early morning hours Wednesday near Nugent and Midland avenues.

The video shows the suspect standing there for several seconds holding what appears to be a lighter up to the flag until it goes up in flames. And then he nonchalantly walked away.

The homeowner, who did not want to be identified, said he only had the flag up for two weeks and he's thankful his home didn't catch fire.

The incident is sparking outrage from local officials and veterans who are condemning the act as un-American and unacceptable.

"It was an attack on every single person who puts on the uniform to protect our city, to protect our state and to protect our nation," said Assemblyman Michael Tannousis.

The homeowner says the suspect is a total stranger and he doesn't know why he targeted his home.

John Potts, 48, was arrested Thursday night on charges or arson, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief.

"You want to burn your own flag, don't burn my flag," the homeowner said. "I hope he's arrested and not released in 24 hours how the law is right now."

The act of burning the flag is not illegal, though many find it offensive.

Elected officials on Friday said it is a heinous act and blatant disrespect in a very patriotic corner of the city.

"Amongst veterans we have a saying it says if you've never taken the chance to come home under a flag, don't you dare stand on it or disrespect it," veteran Tom Wortmann said.

The Supreme Court decided it is constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment, but Congress has tried to outlaw flag burning several times.

Assemblyman Tannousis said he will introduce legislation this summer to make it a crime in New York.

A new flag was donated to replace the one that was burned down.

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