Tabb, VA – York-Poquoson sheriff’s deputies have arrested a man who set an American flag ablaze outside a Walmart store on Independence Day (video below).
The incident occurred in the parking lot of the store at approximately 9:13 a.m., the Daily Press reported.
Cell phone footage recorded by a Walmart employee showed the suspect, later identified as 23-year-old Mitchell Lee Stauffer, as he rummaged through the trunk of his car while parked in the driving lane in front of the store.
Prior to the start of the video, Stauffer had already thrown an American flag onto the pavement and doused it with gasoline, the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office (YPSO) explained in a Facebook post.
One of the bystanders told someone off-camera to call 911, just as Stauffer bent down and lit the flag on fire, the video showed.
The flag immediately burst into flames, at which point Stauffer yelled about not giving “a s--t if you die.”
He slammed his trunk closed and left the scene, leaving the burning American flag on the ground behind him.
Bystanders noted the license plate on the suspect’s vehicle, and he was later arrested for burning an object in a public place with the intent to intimidate, the YPSO said.
“The burning of our great American Flag is very offensive to most people including me,” York-Poquoson Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Diggs said in the post. “That being said, the courts have ruled that act alone is an expression of free speech and not per se illegal.”
Stauffer was not arrested for “his First Amendment Right to burn the flag,” but because he did so in a public place with the intent of intimidating others.
He faces one to five years in prison if he is convicted, the Daily Press reported.
“This charge is appropriate under the Code of Virginia,” Sheriff Diggs said in the post. “It is fortunate that no one was injured today.”
You can watch footage of the incident in the video below: