Etna Township, OH – Neighbors of a the father of a murdered hero are flying Thin Blue Line flags to show their support after his community homeowners’ association (HOA) ordered him to take down the flag he flies in memory of his son.
Kirkersville Police Chief Steven Eric DiSario and two other victims were gunned down on May 12, 2017 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 responded to a call for a man with a gun in the area and is believed to have encountered his killer.
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.
Chief DiSario was 38 years old and had six children and another on the way when he was murdered five years ago.
His father, Thomas DiSario, has flown a Thin Blue Line flag beneath his American flag on a pole in his yard in Cumberland Crossings since his son was murdered in the line of duty, WSYX reported.
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 until this month when he replaced his bent flag pole and raised his flags again.
“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.
Two days later, Thomas DiSario got a letter from his HOA that said they had received a complaint and flag must come down because it was considered a political sign and a violation of neighborhood rules, WCMH reported.
“The political sign in the form of a flag must be removed from your property,” the letter read. “The flag on your pole is not a United States Flag. It is a political statement. Please remove the flag from your property.”
Thomas DiSario said he was shocked he was being harassed for flying a memorial flag to a murdered local hero, WCMH reported.
“I spent 23 years in the military, and there’s no way shape or form that flag is being flown disrespectful at all,” he said. “It has a 4×6 American flag above it, and the police flag is a 3×5 below it. It is no bigger than the top flag.”
“It represents my son and nothing else. So I don’t know why everybody is now harassing me that I have to take it down,” the angry father added.
Neighbors agreed with the Thomas DiSario and to show their support, Thin Blue Line flags have begun flying in front of multiple homes in the community, WSYX reported.
“I applaud them for it and it’s growing. You see more flags out every few days, you see a few more flags and blue light bulbs,” neighbor Kathy Riddle said.
“We wanted to show respect for our neighbor. And we appreciate the service that his family member gave,” Riddle added.
Neighbors said a lot of people flew Thin Blue Line flags in memory of Chief DiSario after he was first killed, WSYX reported.
“Seeing this community come together and supporting one another – everybody had their blue line flags,” neighbor Kari Culver recalled.
This time there are even more Thin Blue Line flags flying in the community to support Thomas DiSario, WSYX reported.
“We just feel the need to support. Is it political? No. I personally feel that there’s certain people that have made it political. I have never once ever thought that this flag represents political,” Culver explained.
“I feel like we are here to support one another and that’s what we’re doing. That’s why we put the flag back up,” she added.
Thomas DiSario said he planned to speak with a lawyer and had scheduled a call to discuss the problem with the National Police Association, WSYX reported.