LICKING COUNTY, Ohio — As the sun gave way to Friday evening shadows over Cumberland Crossing you could hear it coming.
On his front porch with his wife Belinda, Tom Disario sat anxiously until just before 8:00 p.m. when the sound of law enforcement sirens drove right past his front door.
A caravan of about 20 cruisers from different Licking County law enforcement agencies honored fallen officers. It was an act of gratitude for the Disarios, whose son, Kirkersville Police Chief Steven Eric Disario, died five years ago in the line of duty.
“That’s fantastic,” Disario said Friday evening. “That is going to make me cry.”
Since that day the Disarios have flown a police flag in the front yard. Last week, the OMNI Community Association Managers told Disario to take it down, calling it a political statement after a complaint was made.
One week later Disarios’ neighbors, fed up with the argument, are showing support.
“We support his decision,” Lori Shoemaker said. “I don’t see this flag as being political.”
“The thin blue line is not political,” Wally Baumbusch said.
“Is this flag political,” 10TV’s Bryant Somerville asked neighbor Matt Westlake, to which he replied “absolutely not.”
By Monday, a dozen police flags had popped up.
“I did not have it in my yard before, but when the controversy arose we ordered one,” Baumbusch said.
Baumbusch says he’s fighting back against the HOA. So is Shoemaker.
“Well, [the HOA] haven’t said anything yet,” she said with a smile while looking at her own police flag flying on her front porch.
Westlake, who has family in law enforcement, says Disario’s flag is no different than making a rock garden for a passed loved one.
“That’s a memorial for his son,” he said.
OMNI, though, says it’s against the rules that homeowners agreed to when they signed their deeds.
An OMNI representative says there is a way for all of this to change.
It says the board needs to come up with an initiative to make an amendment to the deed restrictions that could then be voted on by homeowners by either mail, or in-person. OMNI says 75 percent of homeowners have to agree with the change, or it would not pass. OMNI also says the biggest challenge would be deciding on what is acceptable and what is not, saying homeowners don’t comprehend, on average, how dangerous and deep this rabbit hole legally goes.
“Yes, I signed a contract,” Baumbusch said. “But, at the end of the day, I’m an American first.”
Baumbusch calls it a constitutional right worth defending.
“We have to protect it,” he said. “And, if that means we got to do a little head-butting with our HOA, then I guess that’s what we’ll do.”