A Carrollton couple believes hate was the motivation for an early morning crime that targeted their home, their mailbox and their rainbow pride flag.
Police say Thursday morning just before 3:30 a.m. someone ripped the couple's gay pride flag from the side of their home on Longwood Drive, stuffed it into their mailbox at curbside and lit it on fire using several neighbors' mail as kindling.
Markus Maguire and his husband, Wilson Nash, awoke Thursday morning to find their flag missing, just a piece of the broken wooden poll still in its holder. Their next-door neighbor then discovered the remains of a fire in their open mailbox.
Carrollton police investigators discovered several pieces of burned mail inside, along with the flag, balled up and charred in the very back.
The flag sustained only a few burns because the perpetrators actually closed the mailbox after lighting the fire, and the flames quickly subsided due to lack of oxygen.
Neighbors with surveillance cameras discovered video that captured what looks like a light-colored van pulling up to the house, a person pulling the flag down and then the vehicle leaving briefly before returning a few minutes later so someone could set the fire.
Other residents in the area believe they captured the same van, which they don't recognize, making multiple passes through their streets over about a 30-minute period.
Maguire and Nash, who have lived in the area for about two years, say they believe the crime was a clear act of hate.
"It was actually a target at us," Maguire said. "It was absolute hate, and they meant to do it."
Carrollton police representative Jolene DeVito said Friday that the department is looking for other neighbors in the area who may have caught better images of the crime and the person responsible.
DeVito said that with all of the factors in the investigation, including arson and the involvement of the U.S. mail, the crime could potentially qualify as a hate crime, a federal offense – though detectives are still early in their investigation at this point.
Maguire and Nash said the outpouring of support from their neighbors has been the one positive to come out of the situation, with people actively helping them search for evidence and some even hanging rainbow flags in front of their own homes in solidarity.
Maguire said they personally wasted no time getting their pride flying again, by going straight from filing the police report Thursday to purchase a new flag.
"We found out at about 8 o'clock, and by 12 had a new one up," he said.
"And if they try to take it down again we'll put another one up," Nash said.
Carrollton police ask anyone with information in the investigation to contact them right away at 972-466-3333.