RIVERSIDE – Flags placed on a freeway overpass in Riverside to salute the service members killed in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan were ripped apart by unknown vandals, and authorities today asked for the public’s help to identify them.
“At this point, we don’t have any suspect description, but it’s obvious the flags were intentionally damaged,” according to a Riverside Police Department statement.
The 13 American flags and one U.S. Marine Corps flag, hung on the protective fence for the Ivy Street bridge overlooking the Riverside (91) Freeway, were slashed Sunday, but the time of the vandalism was uncertain.
“An observant citizen noticed the flags appeared to be damaged, and it was reported to the police,” RPD stated.
The flags were relinquished to Boy Scouts of America Troop 703 to be honorably retired, officials said.
Among those killed in the Aug. 26 attack at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, were two Riverside County natives — 20-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Kareem Grant Nikoui of Norco and 22-year-old Marine Cpl. Hunter Lopez of Indio.
The nine marines assigned to Camp Pendleton were: Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Utah; Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, Calif.; Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, of Omaha; Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, Logansport, Indiana; Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of Wentzville, Missouri; Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas; Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, Jackson, Wyoming; Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, and Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California; Navy Hospital Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio also was assigned to Camp Pendleton.
The other three service members killed were Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, of Roseville, California; Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee; Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario, 25, Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Anyone with information about the flag vandalism was asked to call the police department at 951-353-7955.
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