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Tattered American flag at Mesa office leads to scuffle between security, disabled veteran

Posted at 4:48 AM, Jul 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-12 12:58:19-04

A disabled Air Force veteran taking a stand for the American flag ended up in a scuffle with a federal security guard.

The incident was captured on camera by Shivani Dallas who happened to be inside the office at the time. In the video, which starts inside the building, you hear a social security office employee asking Dallas to stop recording the incident, and informs her she could be arrested.

You hear Dallas saying, "This is wrong, he didn't do anything wrong. What do you mean no video?"

Dallas then complies with the employee's request to leave the building and exits from a side door, still recording the incident. 

In the video you see a federal security officer sitting on top of a man on the ground who appears to be in distress.   

"He just kept saying, 'I'm disabled, I cannot breathe, please get off my diaphragm, somebody get me some help,'" said Dallas. 

In the video you hear the man screaming and saying, "I can't breathe," and the security officer saying, "stop over-reacting." 

ABC15 has now identified the victim as Richard Moriarty. He tells us he is a disabled veteran who served during Desert Storm, and he was fed up after seeing the flag outside the Mesa social security office in such bad shape.

"It's been ongoing but yesterday it was really bad. I think the storms might have got to it," said Moriarty.

He describes the flag as being torn, tattered, dirty, and rolled up into a ball on top of the flagpole. Seeing that really got him upset.

"The flag itself is not just a piece of material. It's not just a cloth. It's a symbol of our reality, it is the blood of the people who died. When people abroad see the US flag flying in their country they know it stands for something, it's considered a safe space in many places," said Moriarty.  He says his intention was simply to go inside the building to ask them to take the flag down.

Dallas who overheard part of the conversation said she heard the security officer asking Moriarty, "how dare he question his citizenship."

What happened next is unclear, although cameras inside the office recorded the incident that footage was not available for ABC15 to view.

Witnesses said all they saw was the security officer pushing the veteran outside the doors, and taking him to the ground.

Mesa Police reports state the security officer said he thought he saw a flash of hands coming up at him.

"I may have put my hands up like this to get my balance, I was caught off guard when he came at me and he is a large man, his body pushed against mine, I don't have very good balance," said Moriarty.

Mesa police say officers viewed the video captured on the building security cameras and determined disorderly conduct and trespassing were appropriate charges in this case.

"I didn't go in with the intention of being belligerent, I didn't go in with the intention of ordering him to do something. I handled it all wrong, that is what the officer told me," said Moriarty.

He suffered minor scrapes and bruises in the incident. 

Mesa firefighters and medics who also responded to the scene have confirmed that firefighters also noted the poor condition of the US flag, and took it down themselves. A Mesa fire spokesman says firefighters folded the tattered flag and handed it over to staff inside the office.

US flag code indicates the flag should be taken down during inclement weather, and when in bad shape. You can review the full code here.