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Pride flag flying in front of OSU off campus apartment set ablaze by suspected arsonist

WSYX – Columbus logo WSYX – Columbus 8/11/2022 Steve Levine
© Provided by WSYX – Columbus

Two members of the LGBTQ+ community are speaking out after they say someone set their rainbow Pride flag on fire this weekend while it was hanging in front of their off-campus apartment.

"We haven't had any real issues here," Katie Vela, who identifies as pansexual and non-binary, said. "We see a lot of Pride flags, Black Lives Matter flags, we thought it would be pretty safe, it definitely shows Columbus is not as safe as we thought."

Vela and her husband Trent Wilson, who is also part of the LGBTQ+ community, had been hanging a Pride flag in front of their East 15th Avenue home since they moved in.

"We were super excited," Wilson said. "We could share our identities with the rest of the world."

But that flag now burnt pieces of material after someone set it on fire on August 6, when the newlyweds were out with friends.

"It's definitely a hate crime," Vela said. "They are actually targeting us."

The entire crime was captured on camera. Security video shows a man wearing dark pants, a black t-shirt with a green white and red emblem similar to the Italian flag, over a red shirt , and white shoes, walk up to the apartment  around 11 p.m. Saturday night with a gas can. Seconds later the flag is doused with gas and set on fire.   

Caption: The entire crime was captured on camera. Security video shows a man walk up to the apartment around 11 p.m. Saturday night with a gas can. Seconds later the flag is doused with gas and set on fire.{{ }} {{ }}(Video courtesy of Katie Vela and{{ }}Trent Wilson){p}{/p}

"We are not doing anything wrong," Vela said. "My identity is not hurting anybody, I shouldn't be scared to be proud of who I am."

 Vela said police believe the suspected arsonist was with two other people who may have been driving around in a stolen car.

It's not the first rainbow flag to be set on fire recently in Central Ohio.  A pride flag was ignited by someone two months ago in front of a Canal Winchester church during pride month.

RELATED: 'I feel discriminated against,' Columbus couple frustrated with flag violations from HOA

"It's scary for everyone," Wilson said. "Anybody that identifies with us should be terrified about what's happening."

"I really want to be proud of who I am, it's a big part of my life," Vela said. "But at the same time my safety comes first, if we are going to become targets, I might not put it back up."

Columbus Police now investigating the crime.  Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers of Central Ohio at 614-461-TIPS or CPD at 614-645-4545.

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