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Investigation Underway in Vandalism of Charleston 9 Memorial

Crosses were broken and flags uprooted

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — An investigation is underway after a Charleston police officer on Friday spotted debris in a road that led to the discovery of vandalism at a memorial site for nine firefighters.

The memorial marks the former site of the Sofa Super Store, where nine firefighters died battling a massive fire in the furniture showroom on June 18, 2007.

Charleston Fire Chief Dan Curia said the memorial is “sacred to the Charleston Fire Department, is sacred to the service, but it’s an important part of our community. And to think that somebody would deface this memorial is absolutely heinous. It’s disgusting. And on behalf of the Charleston Fire Department, I deplore this act,” WCSC-TV reported.

Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds said the department will make an arrest. “Somebody will be held accountable for this,” he said.

A police officer stopped at the Charleston 9 Memorial park at about 1:40 a.m. Friday when he noticed debris in the median. The officer found an American flag draped over a cross along with several smaller flags scattered around, an incident report states. The officer then noticed the nine PVC pipe memorial crosses at the park had been uprooted and broken.

Police said the American flag and the Charleston 9 Memorial flag had been removed from the flagpole in the park, an angel statue at the Louis Mulkey memorial plaque had been knocked over and an American flag had been broken off of the Billy Hutchinson memorial plaque.

The officer also found a gallon jug that smelled of gasoline near the road.

Police were working to review security footage from a nearby gas station in hopes of finding a suspect.

After the deadly fire, the city purchased the land in 2008 to create the memorial park. It features markers to remember Firefighter Brandon Thompson, Engineer Brad Baity, Capt. Louis Mulkey, Engineer Mark Kelsey, Capt. Mike Benke, Capt. William Hutchinson, Firefighter Melvin Champaign, Asst. Engineer Michael French and Firefighter James “Earl” Drayton. Each marker shows where they were found after the fire.

Anyone with information on the crime is asked to call 843-743-7200 or Crime Stoppers of the Lowcountry at 843-554-1111.

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