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Student slapped with hate crime charge after urinating on family’s Pride flag

Rainbow pride flag and handcuffs. LGBTQ+ discrimination, legislation, and gay rights concept.
Photo: Shutterstock

Police in Columbus, Ohio, have arrested 20-year-old Ohio State University student Trey Samuel Fetzer after a surveillance camera allegedly recorded him urinating on a queer family’s rainbow Pride flag on their front porch during the night of February 8.

Fetzer now faces misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, and ethnic intimidation (a hate crime charge), according to Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein. The charges could result in hundreds of dollars in fines, possible jail time, or probation, WCMH reported.

“Vandalizing property and making homophobic remarks in an attempt to intimidate members of the LGBTQ+ community will not be tolerated in our city,” Klein said in a statement. “Columbus is diverse and tolerant, and we celebrate our LGBTQ+ community. Hate has no home here, and as long as I’m city attorney, we will continue to aggressively prosecute hate and bias crimes.”

The family’s surveillance video showed the vandal pulling down his pants and peeing on the flag while repeatedly saying, “F**k the gays.” The vandal then extended his middle finger towards the house and hit its front door twice before running away with a male friend who had recorded the crime on his cell phone.

One of the family members living in the house, a trans mother named Zoe, posted video footage of the crime to the website Reddit, to set an example for her own children.

“I am asking for your help. Please help us find the individuals responsible,” she wrote on Reddit. “Obviously, no one was harmed, but I’m tired of being powerless. Recent legislation has only emboldened this kind of hate.”

Fetzer returned to the house on February 13 to apologize, The Columbus Dispatch reported. The family’s video soon gained media and police attention, though many online versions blurred the men’s faces and the vandal’s genitals.

The vandalism alarmed other members of the queer family.

“Honestly, I’ve been a little more anxious, I’ve been checking the camera feeds, I’ve been looking outside more, I’ve been more cautious,” Raven, one of the family members, told WBNS. Another family member named Sarah said she worried this vandalism could be a sign of worse things ahead.

The family members said they were not looking to ruin the vandal’s life — they just wanted the vandals to understand why their actions were wrong and how much genuine hurt they caused people. The family has also said that it will continue to display their Pride flag proudly.

The number of LGBTQ+ hate crimes in Ohio has increased between 2020 and 2022, according to the FBI. In 2020, the FBI recorded 69 hate crimes targeting people’s perceived sexual orientation. In 2022, that number rose to 81 — a 17 % increase. In 2020, the FBI recorded 34 hate crimes targeting people’s perceived gender identity. In 2022, that number rose to 45 — a 32% increase.

Ohio recently passed a ban on gender-affirming care for trans minors as well as a ban on trans girls and women participating in scholastic sports teams matching their gender identity. Numerous families and individuals have begun seeking emergency relocation funds to flee the state.

The state has also recently prohibited several trans politicians from running for office because they didn’t include their deadnames on election paperwork.

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