Witness receives cash reward for protecting C Hill flag

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It wasn't Jon Zegers' first visit to the American flag that adorns C Hill, but it was his most memorable.

He witnessed a Dayton teen cutting an "A" in the flag and turned him over to police.

On Thursday, Zegers, 35, was rewarded with a $500 check from House of Drake in Carson City. He may also receive an additional $500 from Slot World and $500 from the Chamber of Commerce.

"We were disgusted the first time that someone cut the star out, so we put up a $500 reward for the arrest and conviction of anyone caught vandalizing the flag. We were hoping it would make people keep an eye on it," said Scott Erskine, House of Drake owner.

"If my father had his way, all of Carson City would have their telescopes trained on the flag and diligently watch it."

Zegers said he was on the hill April 11 when he was approached by three boys asking for a cigarette. As the group stood around smoking, Zegers said, the boys told him they were from Dayton and their names. He said Jakob Kuhlman commented on the star that had been reported cut from the flag on April 9.

"He says, 'Oh look, somebody put rocks on it,' and I said, 'Did you read about that in the paper?' And they all looked at me like, 'Oh, it was in the paper?'" he said.

Zegers said Kuhlman then wandered over to the flag.

"He just walked away from the group. Bent over, picked up a rock and started hacking away at the flag," he said. "I couldn't believe it. I said, 'Hey, what the hell are you doing?' What really threw me was the fact that it was an anarchy 'A.'"

Immediately following the confrontation, the boys began hiking down the hill. Zegers walked to his truck and drove to the Carson City Sheriff's Department. His police report is detailed, with a map of the flag, where police would find the discarded cigarette butts, a lengthy description of a new tattoo Kuhlman had shown him and individual descriptions of each of the boys.

Zegers told officers he would be able to identify them if he had a yearbook picture. A subpoena to Dayton High School provided Zegers with the pictures.

"I had no idea about the reward; it was just a matter of doing the right thing," he said.

Erksine said House of Drake will have a standing offer of $500 for any future vandalism.

"It's disgusting for someone to vandalize that flag, especially after Sept. 11," he said. "It's a good thing Jon was there or that kid would have just kept cutting."

Zegers was glad he was in the right place at the right time.

"That flag up there isn't just some decoration, it stands for something. You don't have to believe in everything that the flag stands for, but the greatest freedom we have is that fact that you're free to disagree," he said.

Kuhlman pleaded guilty Monday to the second incident in Justice Court and was sentenced to 80 hours of community service, a $250 fine and $50 restitution. He is scheduled to leave for the Coast Guard in September and currently has a brother stationed on a Navy ship as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. He denies any involvement in the earlier cutting of the star.


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