Teen who stole American flag from military vet’s car wash earns patriotic punishment

Stealing an American flag from a military veteran’s carwash earned one teen a patriotic punishment.

On Thursday morning, Bill Hoaglin of Beacon Car & Pet Wash in Pacific, Missouri discovered that one of his three large American flags on his property was missing. Hoaglin rewound his surveillance camera footage, and viewed a man wearing a gray, hooded sweatshirt ride up on a bicycle, grab one of the flags, and pedal off.

Hoaglin posted the footage on Facebook, wishing someone could identify the shadowy figure. “I got quite a few anonymous tips,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Nineteen-year-old Keaton Chandler stole an American flag from a Missouri carwash and as punishment, handed out mini versions to customers. (Photo: Courtesy of Bill Hoaglin)

The flag thief turned out to be Keaton Chandler, 19, who lives in town with his grandmother. “Keaton works the night shift at a local ice manufacturer so he got off work and biked around my car wash, looking for loose change before he took the flag,” Hoaglin tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

The 50-year-old alerted the Pacific City Police Department and a few hours later, he received a phone call from Chandler. “He said, ‘I am the guy who accidentally stole your flag,’” says Hoaglin. “I said, ‘There’s nothing accidental about stealing.”

Hoaglin says Chandler offered to return the flag if the business owner removed the Facebook footage. But as a former police officer of 18 years who specialized in community issues, Hoaglin offered Chandler a deal: Return the flag and avoid criminal charges by carrying out a symbolic punishment.

“I sent my daughter to Walmart to purchase more than 150 miniature American flags for Keaton to pass out to customers,” Hoaglin tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

When Chandler arrived at the carwash, he was greeted by Hoaglin and a police officer. “He apologized and said he wanted the flag to decorate his bedroom,” Hoaglin tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “He shook my hand and agreed to pass out flags to avoid jail time.”

For nearly five hours, Chandler distributed every single flag to customers. “He said he would do whatever it takes,” says Hoaglin.

The former deputy has offered the flag punishment to other teens over the course of his career, but Chandler was the first to accept the deal. “Not everyone had the right kind of attitude,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “And many times, it’s easier to just take the ticket.”

As a former Air Force veteran whose grandfather was a Purple Heart recipient during WW2, Hoaglin wanted Chandler to learn that “the flag is more than just a decoration. It means more than that.”

Chandler and a representative of the Pacific City Police Department didn’t return Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment.“The middle flag, I stole it, I made a mistake. Don’t steal flags, kids,” Chandler said, according to Fox News.

“Keaton was grateful, courteous, and respectful and he thanked me for not sending him to jail,” Hoaglin tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “He deserved a break.”

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