A New Mexico man is facing charges for stealing flags and setting them on fire—a fire that ended up burning down the home where he was staying.
Tracy Ochoa was living just behind the Eagles Club in Alamogordo. He told officers the reason he came and cut their flags down was because they offended him.
“This is America. You’ve got every right to be unhappy with the country and things that are going on. But to take and destroy someone else’s property, I don’t agree with that,” Eagles Club President Alessio Zagra said.
Police say back in December, Ochoa stole an American flag, New Mexico flag and POW/MIA flag. It was all caught on surveillance video, which is how police identified him. Police say he told them he stole the flags because he was raised as a Jehovah’s witness and had a religious issue with them.
However, when Ochoa took them back to the trailer where he was staying without permission, the flags and the trailer caught fire. He claims he may have left a cigarette burning.
The Eagles Club, which raises thousands of dollars for charities every year, says that American flag had a lot of meaning behind it.
“That flag was given to us by a local VFW. It wasn’t just a $5 flag that you pick up at Walmart,” Zagra said.
“They only flag we were actually able to identify as one of the three flags taken from the Eagles Club was the New Mexico flag that wasn’t consumed by the fire. The other two flags were completely destroyed,” Capt. Roger Schoolcraft said.
The Eagles Club says someone tried to steal their flags months before, but failed. They don’t know if it was Ochoa.
KRQE News 13 is told they plan to put up their new flags with steel cables, to make it harder to cut them down.
Ochoa is charged with negligent arson, larceny and trespassing.