Reward offered in mysterious Brooklyn Bridge flag switch

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Thursday, July 24, 2014
New York City Police officers stand at the base of a white flag flying atop the west tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, Tuesday, July 22, 2014.
New York City Police officers stand at the base of a white flag flying atop the west tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, Tuesday, July 22, 2014.
AP Photo/Richard Drew

BROOKLYN BRIDGE -- A reward has been announced in connection with the mysterious Brooklyn Bridge flag switch.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said he is personally funding a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or people responsible.

Police are monitoring social media to try to track down who replaced the American flags with bleached white flags early Tuesday morning. Right now, investigators believe it was a prank.

Police are looking for five men, believed to be in their early 20s, who are suspected of swapping out the flags. While there are no solid leads on their identities, Adams confirmed a report that the New York City Police Department has nicknames of possible suspects. Detectives are now trying to learn their real names.

Adams said security is being brought up to date on the bridge, which includes adding more cameras.

John Miller, deputy commissioner of intelligence of the NYPD, said surveillance video shows a group of five people crossing the bridge around 3:10 a.m. Tuesday, the light that illuminates the American flag on the Brooklyn tower went out. About 15 minutes later, the light went out on the Manhattan tower. By dawn, construction workers noticed the American flags had been replaced by white flags.

Detectives are particularly interested in any group of people who have had access to the Brooklyn Bridge, for example, city employees, construction workers, climbers, even pyrotechnic specialists, because the Macy's fireworks were partially staged on the bridge.

The NYPD removed the white flags just before noon Tuesday from poles on the stone supports that hold cables above the bridge. Miller said it appeared the 20 foot by 11 foot flags were bleached American flags. There were faint traces of stars and stripes on them. Police also found what appeared to be large aluminum pans that had been affixed as covers, secured with zip ties.

Miller said whoever did it appeared to have some climbing experience and possibly had done bridge work.

"At this time no nexus to terrorism or politics. This could be someone's art project or someone's statement. We're just not clear what that statement is," Miller said.

PHOTOS OF THE FLAGS ON THE BRIDGE

"Whatever the motive was, it is a matter of concern. I'm not particularly happy about the event," Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.

Officers in patrol cars are stationed at both ends of the bridge, which is constantly monitored by surveillance cameras.

More than 120,000 vehicles, 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 bicyclists cross the Brooklyn Bridge every day, according to the city's Department of Transportation, which maintains the bridge.

The flags fly from above the pillars year-round and are replaced by DOT workers when they become frayed, police said. They are lit from the bottom by a lamp at the base of each tower at night.