ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — The unidentified man caught on camera torching a Pan-African flag with a flamethrower outside the headquarters of a Black international socialist group would only be charged with a misdemeanor, St. Petersburg Police said.
Yolanda Fernandez with the St. Petersburg Police Department said that although the man was recorded committing the alleged crime outside the Uhuru house on July 2, it still may not be enough to charge him.
“Because of the low value of the cost of replacing the flag and the damage to the palm tree, it’s considered criminal mischief. It’s just not enough money involved there, it’s not over $500,” Fernandez said.
Despite it being caught on video, police said the man with the flamethrower may not be charged because an officer did not witness the crime.
“With a misdemeanor most of the time, except for a few specific cases, the officer would have to see it,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez also said it does not appear an added charge of a hate crime can be filed if the person is arrested.
“In this case, we have no indication that this act was committed because he hated their race or religion,” Fernandez said.
Chimurenga Waller with the Uhurus said the crime was an act of terror and the charges should be much more serious.
“Somebody comes in the Uhuru house with a flamethrower and you say it’s criminal mischief, we think it’s a little more serious than mischief, it’s arson,” Waller said.
St. Petersburg police said the investigation is still open and active as they work to identify a potential suspect and determine what charges can be filed.
Anyone with information is asked to call the St. Petersburg Police Dept. at (727) 893-7780 or text “SPPD” plus your tip to TIP411.