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A flag pole and an American flag were discovered damaged and burned early Saturday morning at the Midas store along the 700 block of Litchfield Avenue Southwest in Willmar. The Willmar Police Department is investigating the incident.

Update 11 a.m.: Willmar Police chief asks for civility, information related to flag burning incidents

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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR — Willmar Police are investigating two incidents of someone burning a U.S. flag during the early morning hours Saturday.

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According to Police Chief David Wyffels, there are two confirmed incidents, at Kitchen Fair, along the 300 block of Fifth Street Southwest, and at the Midas Auto station, along the 700 block of Litchfield Avenue Southwest.

The incidents are believed to be connected and happened within a close time proximity, Wyffels said in a news release. Police have video footage of one of the incidents recorded just after 1 a.m. Saturday.

In his news release and in an interview this morning with the Tribune, Wyffels stressed that community response and citizen statements received by police accusing individuals from the Somali community are unfounded and “only cause additional speculation, resentment and animosity within the community at large,” he said.

The video footage evidence, which is being reviewed by police investigators, shows otherwise, Wyffels said. The footage shows that multiple young males are involved.

Wyffels also stressed that while the acts are concerning, there is nothing in either incident that knowingly raises the crime to a level of terrorism, that the incident was a bias offense or that this is connected to some larger subversive effort.

Neither act represents any danger to the public, Wyffels said. The charges relating to these crimes include arson and criminal damage to property, both of which are being investigated and pursued.

Anyone with information that might assist in resolving these crimes is asked to contact the Willmar Police Department at 320-235-2244.

Update 9:30 a.m.: Willmar police investigating two flag burning incidents, suspects captured on video

WILLMAR — Willmar Police are investigating two incidents of someone burning an American flag during the early morning hours Saturday.

According to Police Chief David Wyffels, there are two confirmed incidents, at Kitchen Fair, along the 300 block of Fifth Street Southwest, and at the Midas Auto station, along the 700 block of Litchfield Avenue Southwest.

Police are investigating and have video footage of one of the incidents just after 1 a.m. Saturday. The footage shows that multiple young males are involved, Wyffels said.

The suspects have been identified, Wyffels said.

Wyffels that he’s been contacted by some community members who are making false accusations toward members of the Somali community.

“There is nothing that supports that (accusation),” the police chief said.

Neither act represents any danger to the public, Wyffels said. The act of burning a flag is criminal damage to property, but is not a terroristic act, he stressed.

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Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

(320) 214-4373
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