Florida man accused of burning American flags at Marion church

Joseph Michael Allegretto arrested on charge of criminal mischief

SUMMERFIELD, Fla. – A Florida man was arrested on suspicion of burning two American flags at a Marion County church.

Joseph Michael Allegretto, 50, was arrested Sunday on a charge of criminal mischief.

The Marion County Sheriff's Office said the pastor of the Congregational Church at 15421 S. Highway 301 in Summerfield contacted authorities on Friday, saying that two flags displayed at the front of the church for Veterans Day were found burned.

"All that was left was the flag stick with char on it," pastor Dr. Jim Keough said. "It was very upsetting, you do think about 'what if?' We're just grateful and thankful. It's thanksgiving, we're very thankful that we didn't have damage to our beautiful building." 

Deputies said the pastor reviewed the church's surveillance video and saw a man later identified as Allegretto lighting the flags on fire. The video also shows Allegretto trying to torch the church, leaving an electrical box scorched, according to deputies.

Authorities have not yet released the video.

Flag Burning

Look at the top of the screen - a man sets fire to two American flags that were part of a Veteran's Day display at a church. http://bit.ly/2B35tgn

Posted by Clay LePard News on Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Deputies said they found Allegretto at a gas station on Sunday and arrested him. Allegretto admitted that he set the flags ablaze but denied trying to ignite the church, according to deputies.

No other details have been released.

Allegretto remains locked up in the Marion County Jail.

"What we want for him is to get help," Keough said. "This gentlemen obviously has some problems."
Keough tells News 6 he was already looking into improving security at the church, but expedited the process after the fire. Four new surveillance cameras were installed Wednesday, and several other cameras were upgraded. 

MAN ARRESTED FOR BURNING CHURCH’S AMERICAN FLAGS On Friday, November 17, 2017, Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO)...

Posted by Marion County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Watch News 6 for updates.

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