An Ohio homeowners association has ordered a disabled military veteran to take down a Thin Blue Line flag he flies in his Etna front yard in honor of his police chief son, who was fatally shot five years ago while answering a call.
Thomas DiSario received a letter Monday from Omni Community Association Managers saying the "political sign in the form of a flag must be removed from your property," WCMH-TV reported.
What are the details?
DiSario has been flying the Thin Blue Line flag in his front yard ever since his son Steven Eric DiSario — at the time the newly appointed Kirkersville police chief — was gunned down May 12, 2017, the station said.
DiSario's son was only 38 years old and a father of six — with a seventh on the way — when he was killed, WCMH said.
"He was shot and murdered as he got [to the crime scene]," DiSario recalled to the station regarding his son. "So he didn’t even know it was coming."
Adding a deeper cut was the poor timing of the HOA letter: DiSario received it at the start of National Police Week, which honors officers who have given their lives in the line of duty.
What's more, DiSario — who needs oxygen after being exposed to sarin gas during Operation Desert Storm — on Saturday had to deal with a trespasser who went after both the Thin Blue Line flag and the American flag that flies above it, WCMH said.
Image source: WCMH-TV video screenshot
“I had a gentleman come in my yard, lower the flags, and [he] wiped his face on them,” DiSario told the station. “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.”
WCMH said DiSario soon called the Licking County sheriff’s office, but the responding deputy was unable to find the culprit.
'A political statement'
The HOA letter read, in part, that "the flag on your pole is not a United States flag. It is a political statement. Please remove the flag from your property,” the station said.
But DiSario told WCMH he "spent 23 years in the military, and there’s no way, shape, or form that flag is being flown disrespectful at all. It has a 4-by-6 American flag above it, and the police flag is ... 3-by-5 below it. It is no bigger than the top flag."
“It represents my son and nothing else," he added to the station. "So I don’t know why everybody is now harassing me that I have to take it down.”
What did the HOA have to say?
David Dye, Omni Community Association Managers president, told the station the HOA received a complaint about the flag and then sent the letter to DiSario.
Dye also told WCMH that the person who tried to remove DiSario's flags Saturday isn't affiliated with the HOA — and that DiSario has to remove the Thin Blue Line flag because of regulations.
“They bought into the community with rules,” Dye told the station. “He agreed by buying in this community that he can’t display what he wants to display.”
Dye also explained to WCMH how a flag can count as a sign.
“Sometimes signs masquerade as flags or as light displays, as examples,” he told the station. “The board has adopted this and, as a sign, we don’t get to judge what it says. We have had to ask people to remove a sign advertising a nativity display, as an example. It doesn’t matter whether we agree. If it’s a sign, you are not allowed to post it, according to the deed restrictions.”
DiSario, as of Wednesday, continued to fly both of his flags, WCMH said.