A 25-year-old homeless man from Alaska and familiar to Santa Barbara police was arrested Monday evening after he took down the American flag from the federal bankruptcy court on State Street and set it on fire. Gary Evan Matthew Working, who’s been living at Casa Esperanza and recently spent time in Ventura, was taken into custody at around 6:30 p.m. and booked in County Jail for arson. His bail is $50,000.
According to police, Working used a lighter to sever the rope that raises the flag and keeps it in place. Once the rope broke he lowered the flag, walked westbound toward the courthouse’s parking lot with it dragging on the ground behind him, and lit it on fire. One of the witnesses, said authorities, told Working that she was calling the police, to which he reportedly replied, “I’m not hurting anybody. Go ahead.”
Working also reportedly said that he “was in the war,” that he had nothing, and that he was now homeless, police said. He told investigators he burned the flag because he was upset at the Oval Office for not offering more support to veterans who have returned home. Police said they were unable to verify Working’s veteran status.