Residents of a Long Beach neighborhood are shaken up after an arsonist was caught on camera setting their American flags on fire.
A doorbell camera captures the man lighting up the flags in the middle of the night on Thursday.
The suspect was identified as John Leo Meylor, 35, from Laguna. He was arrested several hours after the attacks, tracked down by authorities at a nearby park.
Authorities say the suspect has struck at least 14 homes in the same neighborhood.
In a video provided by a neighbor who wished to remain anonymous, the suspect sets the flags on fire with a lighter. He appears to be relaxed, keeping one hand in his pocket. He ensures the flag is fully ignited by flicking his lighter multiple times and touching the flames to the flag. He then calmly walks away from the burning debris.
“We just can’t believe this is happening,” Jane Andrus, a victim, tells KTLA’s Rachel Menitoff. “I walked outside and the pole was charred. The old pole was just charred and there was no flag and something was missing.”
She didn’t realize her house was targeted until the next day. She’s unsure how the fire was extinguished, but is grateful that her family home for three generations remained unharmed.
“It was just so casual the way this person walked up and took the time and the lighter and the whole bit,” said Andrus. “My family’s home could have been taken from us very quickly and it wasn’t and I’m very grateful.”
The most significant damage during the crime spree was one neighbor’s vehicle, seen completely charred and destroyed on the driveway.
Police say the fire spread from a burning flag and onto the parked car. Luckily, everyone inside the home evacuated safely.
“When you’re a father and you have a young child sitting at home and a lot of these families have children sleeping in their beds, and you have an individual setting fire to a flag that’s affixed to their house, I’m honestly shocked that no homes went up in flames,” said Bradley Mahlsted, a resident and victim.
A day after the incident, Mahlsted decided to replace every flag that was destroyed in his neighborhood, some of which belong to war veterans and carry a ton of sentimental value.
“Somebody loses something, if you can help a neighbor out, if you can help somebody out, that’s what we all should be doing,” said Mahlstead.
Neighbors say not only was the crime spree bizarre, it could have resulted in deadly consequences. They remain thankful that no homes were burned down and no one was injured.
The suspect was later arrested and booked on 13 counts of arson and violation of parole. He was denied bail. The motive behind his crimes is unknown as the case remains under investigation.