A 55-year-old Guerneville man was arrested Saturday on suspicion of stealing two rainbow flags from a flagpole in downtown Guerneville and threatening to make pipe bombs and detonate them at the Guerneville Safeway and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office substation in Guerneville, a sheriff’s official said.
The suspect’s intent was to injure sheriff’s deputies and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, Lt. Eddie Engram said in a statement. The rainbow flag is a symbol of the LGBTQ pride movement.
Vincent Joseph O’Sullivan was booked into the Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of petty theft, making criminal threats and a hate crime, and was held on $50,000 bail.
The first flag theft from the pole in a public plaza at the corner of First Street and River Road was reported on April 26, and on May 5 a replacement rainbow flag was stolen, Engram said.
Deputies investigating the thefts learned of the pipe bomb threats and determined that O’Sullivan was the suspect in both matters, he said.
Elise VanDyne, executive director of the Russian River Chamber of Commerce, said people assumed the flag belonged to the organization because its office is located next to the plaza. But the flag, attached below an American flag and a California state flag, was put there by the Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, she said.
The flag was undamaged and stuffed through the chamber office’s mail slot after its first disappearance and VanDyne said she returned it to the community group.
VanDyne said she did not know if it was the original flag or a replacement that went missing the second time. On Friday, she said there were three flags once again on the pole, along with a new locking mechanism.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-565-2121.
You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @guykovner.