Reported as a hate crime, police seeking suspect

A rainbow flag hung on the center kiosk of the Town Green to help celebrate Pride Month was cut down under cover of darkness either late on June 18 or early on June 19, causing concerns over potential hate crimes in the Town of Windsor. 

The flag was put up by Lorene Romero and Meredith Rennie at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, June 18, after Romero got permission from the town administrators and council to do so. 

“Tuesday morning, when Meredith and I put the flag up we took a selfie,” said Romero. “I took photos of the flag and we both posted to our own Facebook pages. I also sent photos to a town council person and to the Parks and Rec department so they knew who put the flag up.”

The next morning Rennie was jogging around the Green at 6 a.m. and noticed the flag was missing. Upon closer inspection, it was clear the flag had been cut down.

“The flag was cut. When I went to the kiosk, after Meredith texted me that it was missing, I took photos,” said Romero. “The bungee cords and the white top of the flag was still in place. The flag portion was cut but the white top remained.”

Romero phoned the police immediately and reported it as a hate crime. 

According to Sergeant Brent Kidder, patrol deputies have conducted a follow-up investigation in an attempt to locate potential video of the incident by checking for security cameras of the surrounding businesses, but that at present there is no new information regarding this crime and the perpetrators are still unknown. 

Should a suspect be identified, “an interview as to the person’s mindset and motive will be crucial to the potential charges he or she might face. The charges could range anywhere from simple theft and/or vandalism, all the way up to a hate crime,” Kidder said.  

“This is not a ‘childish act,’ this was a deliberate hate crime,” Romero said. “We are better than this.”

According to Romero, the police confirmed the the flag had been unharmed at 10:45 p.m. when they patrolled the Green on June 18, meaning the damage took place sometime between then and when Rennie spotted the damage at 6 a.m. on June 19. 

Romero had initially wanted to hang the flag because she was concerned about the lack of acknowledgment of Pride month in Windsor. 

“I had emailed the town manager and councilmembers asking how come Windsor did not celebrate Pride month,” she said. “They were all supportive and were looking for a way to make it happen, just not sure if it would happen this year.

“After I posted photos (of us hanging the flag), the town manager asked me to come by his office. We talked about flying the flag, and he said there was not a policy at this time but he said Meredith and I could fly it until Thursday and they would take it down for us and return it when they were changing the kiosk over for the Thursday night concert.

“After I left Ken MacNab’s office, I went over to the police station and showed them our selfie and photos of the flag. Police Chief Martinez told me he was very proud of the Town of Windsor for supporting their Pride residents.” 

While Romero is upset about what happened, she is trying to turn a negative into a positive.

“I am angry and disappointed that this happened here in Windsor, however, I am a person who turns lemons into lemonade. I feel that we have the opportunity to educate people about hate crimes and how it affects people we love,” she said. “I also feel that love always overcomes hate and that we can move forward with this and make changes. Perhaps this will bring a full month of Pride celebration in June 2020, or a way for security cameras to be installed on the Town Green.

“Something good will come out of this, I believe that,” concluded Romero.  

“I would like the citizens of the Town of Windsor to know that the police department takes all calls for service seriously and we will continue to do everything we can to try to identify the person responsible,” added Kidder. “Windsor is a safe community and we intend to keep it that way.”

Rennie and Romero have not put up another flag, since they only had permission to keep it up through June 20, but Romero hopes that this incident will lead to a more inclusive community in the future, despite her concerns that this hasn’t been the only incident of hate here.

“It's very sad when our little Windsor has hate crimes,” she said. “Since late 2016 someone spray painted ‘Build the wall higher’ at Cali Calmecac Language Academy, a grade school, damage to the menorah at the Charlie Brown Christmas Grove and now (this).”

But, Romero is hopeful that these activities will be a last gasp of hate, and that the tide is turning.

“Slowly but surely community action is happening,” Romero said. “By being an openly gay person, here in Windsor, it helps people know we are real people. Gayle Walz and I have lived in Windsor for 25 years, we were married in 2008 by (then Mayor) Deb Fudge. I am a business owner and the president and CEO of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce. Windsor has the support of the town manager, mayor and town council. On June 26, an official proclamation about Pride will be read at the town council meeting. 

“Hate will not be tolerated here,” she continued. “I know that good will come from this. The person who did this hateful act does not deserve attention, they will eventually have to deal with what they did. Gay, lesbian and trans people live, work and play in Windsor. We are part of this community and refuse to hide in fear.”

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact Deputy Mark Hunter at Mark.hunter@sonoma-county.org about case number W190619-002.

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