Toledo police Lt. James Brown caught the furry thief with the goods as the officer was walking into the office Wednesday. He snapped the critter with his cell phone.
TOLEDO POLICE/LIEUTENANT JAMES BROWN Enlarge
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 Wednesday.
For days, officers noticed that small flags were disappearing from the Toledo Police Memorial Garden at the Civic Mall, between the municipal and federal courthouses downtown. There were no suspects, no clues left at the scene to help police catch the perpetrator.
But about 7:15 a.m. 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."
Word of the furry bandit spread quickly through the department and, before long, his whereabouts were discovered.
A squirrel's nest outside the Safety Building has at least two of the stolen flags woven into it.
The squirrel was seen Wednesday afternoon lounging on a tree branch in front of a third-floor office facing Erie Street. Woven into its tangled nest of branches and leaves were at least two of the small flags. The flower was not visible, but police believe it will be used in decorating.
The accused squirrel was unavailable for comment for this story.
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.
As of deadline, it appeared the squirrel had, at least temporarily, left his nest. He is currently at large.
Contact Taylor Dungjen at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6054.