Police arrest man for cutting down VFW's flag - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Police arrest man for cutting down VFW's flag

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Patrons of a Veterans of Foreign Wars organization say they feel disrespected after a man cut down their American flag. 

On Monday, police were called to the Iowa City VFW on Hollywood Boulevard after a transient man reportedly cut down the flag after being told to leave the the building. Soon after, Gary Leon Duffel was arrested. He was charged fifth degree criminal mischief and trespassing.

Lisa Pfeiffer is a frequent patron and former employee of the VFW for eight years. She was there when Duffel came in, trying to order a drink. She says he had previously been barred from entering the business.

"Had a pair of garden clippers and wanted a beer and they refused to serve him because he's barred and he went out and cut the rope on the flag," Pfeiffer said.

She said the act was disrespectful, and other patrons outside agreed.

"It's the American flag. It's our country," she said.

The flag had only been hanging outside of the building for a month. Pfeiffer said the fire department had recently helped them string it up. She says that until they can get a new rope purchased and find a way to restring it, the flag pole will stay empty.

Monday's altercation isn't close to the first problem they've had. According to Pfeiffer, there is an ongoing homeless problem near the building and she says Duffel has been known to create problems.

"He's done some vandalism around the building here," she said. One incident involved Duffel cutting electrical wires, she said.

Duffel has a lengthy criminal record, according to online court documents.

In 2017, Duffel was arrested for assaulting a police officer. In 2012, he was arrested after police said he tried to steal a keg of beer from a truck delivery, and then assaulted the driver.

Court records show Duffel has faced more than 120 charges in Johnson County alone. The majority are tied to public intoxication, but they also include assault and possession of marijuana charges.

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