Flags honoring 13 U.S. service members killed in Kabul airport attack found vandalized in California


RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KTLA) – A memorial placed in Riverside, California to honor the 13 American service members who were killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport as the U.S. exited Afghanistan late last month was found vandalized on Labor Day, police said Tuesday.

The memorial, which consisted of 13 American flags and one Marine Corps flag, had recently been put up on the fence above the Ivy Street overpass, above the 91 Freeway, in remembrance of the fallen troops, according to a post on the Riverside Police Department’s Facebook page.

Three Marines from Southern California — Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, and Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio — were among the American troops killed in the Aug. 26 attack.

Ten of the fallen service members, including Nikoui, Merola and Lopez, were based out of San Diego County’s Camp Pendleton.

Photos accompanying the Police Department’s post showed multiple flags at the memorial were ripped and torn. The pictures were originally posted on the Facebook group “What is Going on in Riverside County,” which police thanked “for bringing this crime to our attention.”

It was not immediately clear when the flags were damaged, but a citizen reported the vandalism to police sometime Monday, according to the post.

The damage was obviously intentional, police stated.

Two citizens helped remove the flags, which will be properly disposed of by a local Boy Scouts troop, according to police.

Investigators do not have any description of a possible suspect or suspects, and they are asking for the public’s help to find whoever is responsible for the vandalism.

Anyone with information is urged to call the department’s Property Crimes Unit at 951-353-7955.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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