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An Iowa man who allegedly left handwritten notes saying “burn that gay flag” on residents’ homes last Saturday has been arrested and charged with a hate crime.
Robert Clark Geddes, 25, of Boone, has been charged with four count of trespass with a hate crime enhancement, and four counts of third-degree harassment. He was remanded to the custody of the Boone County Jail, according to a news release from the Boone Police Department.
In four separate criminal complaints, police allege that Geddes — whose picture was captured by a Ring Doorbell camera and used to identify him — “entered upon the property of the victim without the permission of the owner(s) and with the intent to commit a hate crime.” He then allegedly left handwritten notes taped to the doors of homes with Pride flags, rainbow-colored doormats, or other displays that have typically been associated with support for the LGBTQ community.
Police said that all four notes were reported within the same hour, and had “consistent handwriting, matching paper tear marks, and marker bleed through each page.” That evidence that was then used to link Geddes to the other three incidents where there was no doorbell camera present.
Geddes’ defense attorney has declined to comment on the case.
Boone Police Chief John Wiebold previously told the Ames Tribune that the notes are “certainly harassment,” but the police report claims that notes “spoke in opposition of this [LGBTQ] support only and were not threatening in nature.”
April Burch, one of the four note recipients, said that she did not have a Pride flag outside her home when the note was left, but did have a sign that said: “We believe…love is love” that may have triggered the author of the note.
She also told the Tribune that in addition to the message left on her private residence on Saturday, a similar note was posted to the door of a community space she rents in downtown Boone the prior Wednesday. That space has a display featuring two Pride flags and two signs reading “Love is Love.”
The note taped to her rental unit also said “burn that gay flag,” but additionally contained an anti-gay slur and derogatory language about HIV/AIDS. Police have not yet established whether that note is linked to the other four notes at this time.
“It’s just sad, it’s frustrating, it’s gross,” Burch said. “Our 9-year-old son found the note [on our front door], and he was really upset. He was afraid someone was going to come burn our house down.”
Krystal Cox, another note recipient, noted that while she supports LGBTQ rights, she had just bought a rainbow doormat because she “thought it was cute.” But she disagreed with the police department’s assessment that the notes are not threatening.
“Having someone in broad daylight come onto your property and leave a note like that, it is rattling,” Cox said. “I know that officers have their own language for … identifying the severity of a threat, but to say that it was non-threatening, I think, isn’t an opinion that they can have. It definitely did scare people.”
But Burch also turned a negative into a positive. After discussing the incident with her husband and their kids, the family agreed to display a Pride flag outside their house.
“”It’s important to show solidarity and show support — not shy into the woodwork when people are doing mean things to others in our community,” she said.
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