A South Dakota man may face criminal charges after burning an LGBT Pride flag on Facebook Live while screaming, “Burn, burn, burn, you queer sons of b–ches!”
The man, Darrin Pesall, allegedly stole the flag from the home of gay resident Troy Kriech in Webster, South Dakota, on July 24. Kriech, who has since moved to Minneapolis, erected the flag to mark LGBT Pride Month in June. Pesall’s Facebook Live video surfaced one day after Kriech’s flag went missing.
“Right here, there’s a flag that deserves to be f–king burned,” Pesall says in the video. He later removed the video, but Kriech posted a copy of it.
“Right here, we’re burning the f–ker. All you pansy-ass f–king queer degenerate sons of b–ches, watch it!” Pesall says, dousing the flag with lighter fluid but saying he needed to wait until after work to actually burn it.
“Burn, burn, burn, you queer sons of a b–ches! Yeehaw!” Pesall says in a second video re-posted by Kriech, as he ignites the flag. “Go home and cry to your fucking mommies about that, you 30-year-old living in the basement sons of a b–ches.”
Kriech told KELO-TV: “I was just disturbed, disgusted–especially coming from someone I know, that they would actually do something that hateful and disgusting.”
Kriech’s roommate in Webster, Cristy Brandt, told Forum News Service: “I called the cops. They came over and took my statement. We had it screwed onto the house. There are still pieces of the flag hanging there. Then the video blows up on Facebook on Saturday. People are posting it and reporting it, just doggin’ him out and everything. I showed the cops the video before he deleted it. Then someone else had managed to save the video.”
Kriech is seeking hate crime charges against Pesall. However, Day County State Attorney Danny Smeins has ruled them out, given that South Dakota’s hate crimes law doesn’t include LGBT people.
“I don’t think there’s a crime itself in the burning of the flag. It’s a crime to steal it and it’s a crime to trespass on property to remove it.” Smeins said.
“In addition, with most crimes, it might be the cover up that is the most serious crime, and that is lying about aspects of the event,” he added.
Pesall has denied stealing the flag and told KELO-TV he regrets posting the video.
“It shouldn’t have been done the way it was done,” Pesall told. “I apologize to the people I offended. It was absolutely totally wrong.”
But Pesall went on to compare his burning of the LGBT Pride flag to “the uproar over tearing down war monuments” and “the controversy over the Confederate flag.”
“The public display of that type of thing is offensive to me,” Pesall said of the LGBT Pride flag, adding that he believes the incident has been blown out of proportion.
After living in Webster for 13 years, Kriech is in the process of moving to Minneapolis because it is more accepting. But he says he won’t rest until Pesall is charged.
“That’s why I reached out to you,” he told KELO-TV, “because I don’t think it’s right, not only for me — but for the gay community — gay people who live in small communities who are afraid to come out. It’s hard to be gay in South Dakota.”
Watch the station’s report below.