It's not every day Toledo police catch a thief in the act, let alone with a uniformed command officer standing just feet away, watching. But that's exactly what happened on Wednesday. For days, officers had noticed that small flags were disappearing from the Toledo Police Memorial Garden at the Civic Mall, between the municipal and federal courthouses. There were no suspects, no clues left at the scene to help police catch the perpetrator.
But at about 7:15 a.m. on Wednesday, walking into the office, Lieutenants James Brown and Mark King watched the bandit take a flag - and a single pink plastic flower - from the garden. "I just saw him eyeballing it," Lieutenant Brown said. "He didn't know I was standing there." The quick-thinking officer pulled out his cell phone to snap a picture. Lieutenant Brown got his man. Or, well, his squirrel.
The squirrel stopped for a split-second, perhaps realizing he had been caught red-handed - or pawed - on film to look at the lieutenant. Then the suspect, who police describe as a red and brown bushy-tailed critter, fled on four paws toward the Safety Building. "He was too fast," the lieutenant said. "I couldn't catch him." No charges have been filed and police believe the squirrel acted alone in the incident. Lieutenant Brown said it took the squirrel less than 30 seconds to get the small flag off the wooden dowel.
"He definitely knew what he was doing," the lieutenant said. "This wasn't his first time." It's unclear how many flags have been taken from the garden, but the lieutenant said at least three are missing. "I can't prove it was all the same squirrel," he said. Carefully using his teeth, the squirrel cut the flag away from the post. The flag was not ripped and the wooden post was left intact.