Columbus, OH – Ohio lawmakers have introduced legislation that would add the Thin Blue Line flag to the list of protected flags that neighborhood associations must allow to be flown in their communities.
Republican Ohio State Representatives Kevin Miller and Tim Ginter have introduced House Bill 712 in response to a controversy in Pataskala that occurred when a homeowners’ association (HOA) ordered the father of a fallen hero to remove the flag he has flown since his son was killed in the line of duty, WCMH reported.
“The only time it comes down [is] if it’s worn out and I buy a new one and put it back up,” the father explained.
HB 712 would add the Thin Blue Line flag honoring fallen peace officers to the list of flags that HOAs must allow to be flown in the community, which currently includes POW, MIA, military, and American flags, WCMH reported.
Miller, who was the Ohio State Highway Patrol post commander in Licking County when Chief DiSario was killed in the line of duty, said he vividly remembered attending the funeral for the fallen hero.
“That flag is about his son who gave his life in the line of duty,” Miller said. “That’s something that’s very special to him and we’re just looking to protect that.
“For me and my joint sponsor Rep. Ginter, this is all about honoring those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” the lawmaker explained. “Supporting those who currently are serving as our police officers, and it’s also about promoting the profession as well. We’re having significant problems with retention and recruitment.”
He said he purposedly kept the bill narrow and said that anyone who wanted an exemption for another kind of flag should offer a bill and try to have it passed by the General Assembly, WCMH reported.
Ginter introduced the same legislation in the last assembly, but it ran out of time in the Ohio State Senate last session.
Chief DiSario and two other victims were killed by Thomas Hartless, a convicted domestic abuser who had been released from jail two months earlier, WSYX reported.
Hartless, a convicted batterer, had been sentenced to two more months in jail but was released early from his 90-day sentence for domestic violence.
On May 12, 2017, Hartless took two other people hostage at gunpoint in a wooded area behind the nursing home where his former girlfriend worked, the Associated Press reported.
Chief DiSario encountered his killer when he responded to a call about a man with a gun.
The chief’s last radio communication with the dispatcher was when he said he had the suspect in sight, the Associated Press reported.
The hostages were able to escape when Hartless fired on Chief DiSario.
Responding officers found their police chief down on the street and then responded to a report of a gunman at the nearby Pine Kirk Care Center, the Associated Press reported.
Hartless entered the nursing home and fatally shot his ex-girlfriend and a nurse before he took his own life, according to the Newark Advocate.
“He was answering a call in Kirkersville, and he was shot and murdered as he got there. So, he didn’t even know it was coming,” his father told WCMH.
Chief DiSario was 38 years old and had six children and another on the way when he was murdered five years ago.
Law enforcement colleagues of the fallen police chief gifted his father with a Thin Blue Line flag shortly after Chief DiSario was killed in the line of duty, WCMH reported.
Thomas DiSario said he hasn’t had any complaints about it over the past five years.
He said he took his flags down over the winter because the flagpole had become bent, but the new pole went in and the Thin Blue Line was flying to honor his son before Police Week began in mid-May, WCMH reported.
Then the hero’s father said he found a man in his front yard taking down the Thin Blue Line flag and the American flag that had been flying above it.
“I had a gentleman come in my yard, lower the flags, and [he] wiped his face on them,” Thomas DiSario told WCMH. “I, in turn, asked him to leave. He would not, and I put him out of my yard.”
“He came back… sat on my rock, then he proceeded to get up and take the flags down again, and I stopped him and put him out of my yard,” the father explained.
He said he eventually had to call the Licking County Sheriff’s Office and they sent a deputy over to Thomas DiSario’s home, WCMH reported.
The man left before the deputy arrived.
Neighbors helped describe the suspect to the deputy, but authorities weren’t able to locate him.
Two days later, Thomas DiSario received a letter from his HOA that said he had to take down the Thin Blue Line flag because it was considered a political sign and a violation of neighborhood rules, WCMH reported.
His neighbors responded by showing support with their own Thin Blue Line flags on houses all over the community.