KENNEDALE — Four teenagers may have thought they were pulling a mischievous prank this week when they swiped the LGBT pride flag off the front of a Kennedale home.What they got in the end was a car chase by the shoeless homeowner, a visit to the police station and a tough-love lecture about bullying and intolerance.I explained to them why I fly the U.S. flag and the [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community] flag, said Felipe Gutierrez, the homeowner and a community activist. Its not because Im gay. Its because people have lost their lives and taken their own lives because they couldnt live with being bullied and abused over their identity.The incident began about 8 p.m. Wednesday when Gutierrez decided to step outside to see how much it had rained. Through a window he saw one of the teens run from his yard and jump into a car.Once outside he noticed the flag missing. He followed the car until he was close enough to get the license plate number. If he had been wearing shoes, Gutierrez said, he would have gotten out and asked for the flag back then and there, and that would have been it. Instead he rolled down his window and told the kids, I saw you. Then he drove off and let the Kennedale police take over.When police reported to him Thursday morning that the culprits had been identified, he arranged to meet them at the police station. There he told them that he would leave any disciplinary actions up to their parents but that he wanted them to understand what they had done.I told them about myself, about my involvement in Kennedale and my involvement in local, state and national organizations, said Gutierrez, who is president of the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats and a board member for Equality Texas, a group that focus on LGBT issues.He pointed out that another homeowner might not have been as forgiving about what took place. Citing a statistic that 40 percent of the homeless youths in the U.S. are part of the LGBT community, Gutierrez suggested that the teens volunteer to work with a Fort Worth Police Department youth homelessness officer so that they can help alleviate the struggles of some of their peers.I hope they will, he said.Kennedale police Capt. Darrell Hull said the four teens, who are 16 or younger, could have been cited for a class C misdemeanor the level of a speeding ticket for theft of property of less than $50.Hull said that the case is closed as far as police are concerned.
Patrick M. Walker, 817-682-4674 Twitter: @patrickmwalker1