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July 26, 2021

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Man suspected of burning Pride flag stolen from CWU says it was retaliation for theft of his religious flag

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SPOAKEN — The man suspected of stealing a Pride flag from the Central Washington University Student Union and Recreation Center and later burning it told police he stole the flag in retaliation for the earlier theft of his Christian flag from his truck, according to documents obtained by KHQ.

Ryan Pate, 19, allegedly stole the flag on June 9 and set it on fire, recording his actions on social media. Pate is facing third-degree theft and malicious mischief charges related to the incident.

An anonymous person told police Pate had mentioned his plan to steal the Pride flag to a group of people before he did it, according to a police report.

The group discouraged Pate from enacting his plan, they told police. The next day, Pate came into the person’s dorm room and threw the Pride flag at them saying he was angry because someone had stolen his Christian flag off of his truck, according to the documents.

Pate eventually confessed to police that he took the Pride flag. Pate told police he didn’t steal the flag because of what the Pride flag represents but rather because it was the “easiest and most accessible” flag to steal, according to the documents.

University leaders, including president Jim Wohlpart, wrote in a public letter the day after the incident that the students’ actions “denigrates members of our community” and “violates our most basic values.”

“This is an appalling act of hate against the LGBTQ+ community,” the letter states.

Pate will go through the student conduct process at CWU, according to the university.

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