UPDATE (06/02/22)

Decatur Police recently released the identity of the theft suspect, 52-year-old Joseph P. Farrar.

Farrar is expected to be in court on June 15 for a preliminary hearing.

DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) – After an American flag worth roughly $1,000 was stolen from a Decatur cemetery, two men decided to guard the grounds overnight. Just a few days later, they stopped another thief in his tracks.

“It really upsets me and it concerns me that this would happen in Decatur,” Graceland-Fairlawn Cemetery Funeral Director Assistant Bruce Logan said.

Every night over the weekend, the guards spent the hours between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. in complete darkness surrounded by gravesites. Sure enough, around 1:30 on Saturday’s foggy morning, Logan spotted a crook attempting to steal a different American flag.

“He pulled the flagpole out of the ground, and when we heard the ping – the ping went on the ground with the flag. We heard it, turned around, and saw the gentleman get up off of his knee. Then it became a foot chase,” he said.

He said the thief was startled. Along with Mike Tarczan, who also spent this Memorial Day weekend protecting veterans’ graves, Logan saved the flag and held the suspect until police got there.

“I thought about the veteran. I didn’t think about being scared,” he said.

That flag was planted in honor of marine veteran John A. Riley. It stood with over a hundred others along the cemetery’s “Avenue of Flags,” which is displayed only for four days every year.

History of the Heartland Chairman Bret Robertson called this crime “offensive.”

“A lot of people don’t know that each one of those flags has a story. Each one of those flags was on an individual’s casket,” Robertson said.

History of the Heartland, a historical preservation organization, said Riley served in the South Pacific during World War II. He later returned to Decatur to raise his family and was an active member of the Marine Corps League, even serving as Commandant in at least 1957 and 1958. He died in 2006.

Logan said they’ll be increasing security next Memorial Day to prevent similar theft attempts to the one against Riley’s flag.

“We will be prepared for them when they do come again,” Logan said.

“There are patriots out there that are watching out for those types of crimes and they [thieves] may pay a price,” Robertson said.

The suspect has since been charged with theft and defacing a flag.