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Old Glory vanishes from park

Mayor Cecil Bradbury wants his flag back. Sometime early Sunday, the 38-by-20 foot U.S. flag that waved over Freedom Lake Park was stolen. It is worth about $500, Bradbury said.

"I know some people who are so mad they want to sit at the park with a gun," Bradbury said Monday.

The Pinellas Park mayor is particularly angry because the flag was one of three that fluttered atop a 105-foot steel flagpole he dedicated July 4. The ceremony capped a project the mayor had been working on since he thought of the idea two years ago. The project was financed with donations from Pinellas Park residents.

"We're just hoping they'll return it," the mayor said. "It's bigger than anything they could put in their room. . . . It's too big for a bedspread. . . . It's just a huge flag."

Bradbury said the flag apparently was stolen sometime after 1 a.m. Sunday because his friends saw it waving about then at the park at 9990 46th St. N. Thieves apparently broke open a small metal door that covers a crank used to hoist the flag.

Bradbury told police he found two footprints on top of the stone memorial that likely were made by tennis shoes. Police also said someone cut through the security fence about 100 yards northwest of the memorial, broke into the crank box and pulled down the flag.

"I think it's a sad commentary on our society that certain individuals would . . . steal an American flag," Pinellas Park police spokesman LeRoy Lerchen said.

Bradbury said lights at the base of the flag are turned off at 1 a.m., although lights shine on the flag all night. That will change, he said. Lights now also will shine all night on the base of the flagpole, Bradbury said.

"I've had better days," Bradbury said. "Maybe they'll take it back to the park."