Rope connects teens in flagpole attack

By The Associated Press

SPENCER — A yellow-and-black rope left behind after vandals tried to tear down a flagpole outside a gay couple’s southern Indiana home led police to charge two high school students in the attack, authorities said.

The son of a Bloomington police officer admitted to trying to take down the couple’s American flag and a gay pride flag in rural Owen County after his mother confirmed the rope was initially used at their home for a swing, according to a police report. The juvenile told authorities that Zachary Crites, 18, wanted to cause damage because the men are gay, the Herald Times reported.

Crites is charged with criminal mischief and criminal trespass. And both Owen Valley High School students are charged with burglary and theft, accused of also breaking into a family’s cabins earlier this month.

It was the rope that originally connected the two cases together, according to court records and police reports from two Owen County sheriff’s deputies investigating separate crimes. The reports also said a deputy determined that a phone number connected to a Craigslist ad for an ATV stolen from the cabins belonged to Crites.

Jonathan and Jacob Balash, the couple whose home was vandalized, are leaders of the Spencer Pride organization and helped create a community center for LBGTQ people. Jonathan Balash said he and his husband feared for their safety.

Police said they found a gun and ammunition after searching the house where Crites lives with his mother, which is on the same road as the Balashes’ home. They also found items taken from the cabins.

Authorities said the officer’s son, who is unidentified because he is younger than 18, is being charged in juvenile court.

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