On May 12, 2017, Tom DiSario was leaving a Bible study when he heard a report of “shots fired” on the radio and instantly knew that his son, Kirkersville Police Chief Steven Eric DiSario, had been murdered.
On that day, 43-year-old Thomas Hartless went to the Pine Kirk Care Center in Kirkersville, Ohio, where he took several hostages, including nurse Marlina Medrano, whom he had a relationship with, and nurse aide Cindy Krantz. He allegedly had two other hostages who were able to run when Hartless shot DiSario, the Newark Advocate reported at the time.
“I knew when I heard ‘shots fired’ on the radio,” that his son was dead, DiSario told WBNS.
DiSario went to the hospital to identify his son, where he “broke down” and said goodbye.
“The point I seen him,” DiSario told the outlet. “Seen what that murderer did to him I just broke down.”
Ever since that day, DiSario has flown a police flag in his yard to honor his son.
“To me, that represents my son,” he told WBNS.
For just over five years, the flag has been flown without incident, but suddenly, just a day after the five-year anniversary of his son’s death, DiSario received a notice on behalf of his neighborhood’s Homeowner’s Association (HOA) that he needed to remove the flag.
“They have told me in this letter that it’s propaganda,” DiSario told WBNS.
The Advocate reported that DiSario was brought to tears when he received the letter, dated May 13, from the Omni Community Association Managers telling the father that flying the flag violated community restrictions.
“The political sign in the form of a flag must be removed from your property. The flag on your pole is not a United States Flag,” the letter said. “It is a political statement. Please remove the flag from your property.”
DiSario and his wife received the flag from the police association in 2017, and have only removed it when it became worn out and needed to be replaced.
“To be honest, when I saw the letter that people are fighting me over something very valuable to me and personal, I broke down and cried,” DiSario told the Advocate. “That’s how much it meant to me.”
WBNS asked DiSario if he viewed the flag as political.
“No,” he responded. “Under no way, shape or form. The life of my son. Something that I can get up in the morning and look at and remember my son.”
A spokesperson for Omni told the outlet that DiSario had agreed to not display political signs when he signed his deed and that they are merely an enforcer of the rules. The spokesperson also said the HOA received a complaint about the flag and insisted everything would have been avoided if DiSario had simply done what they asked.
“I’ve already told the HOA if you try to come in my yard and take it down you better bring the sheriff with you because you’re not taking it down,” DiSario told WBNS.