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Paducah Police Investigating Window Damage At LGBTQ Center, Burned Flags At Residence

Canyon Bowden

  Paducah police are investigating two incidents of property damage earlier this week involving those supporting the LGBTQ community: a window was found cracked at a local LGBTQ resource center, and two flags at a family’s home — one of them a Pride flag — were stolen and returned burned. Canyon Bowden said her sister was replacing a Pride flag stolen in early March from her sister’s home, and Bowden decided she wanted one for her Jefferson Street home. She placed a Pride flag and another flag with the phrases, “Science is Real” and, “Black Lives Matter” over her front porch, where they remained for about a week. 


On Monday afternoon, the flags were stolen from Bowden’s porch. Bowden said she left her home to pick up her child from a dance class, and when she returned about half-hour later, a box — not addressed to them — was taped shut sitting on her porch. Inside the box, the flags were burned, with a hand-written message using a homophobic slur threatening to take down future flags. 


“To burn it, package it back up, and bring it back to my house? I think that’s a whole other level,” Bowden said. “And to put a note in there? Like, who thinks they can threaten people?”


Credit Canyon Bowden / Provided
The message Bowden recieved with the burned flags.

  Bowden said she displayed the flags because she wanted everyone to be supported in the community, and some of her neighbors reached out to reassure her the incident wasn’t representative of the community. Bowden and her family moved to Paducah in August from Seattle.


“I think the part that bothered me the most was that someone watched me leave my house and waited for me to leave,” Bowden said. “There have been neighbors that have talked to me about possibly seeing kids on bikes with [the flags]. There are definitely bike tracks in my front yard.”


According to the incident report filed by Paducah police, Bowden’s husband was at home and noticed someone riding a bicycle through their yard before Bowden arrived. The box left on the porch was addressed to another woman in the city. The woman’s husband reported to police a white, teenage male on a bicycle asked him if there were any spare boxes he could have, in which the man offered a few boxes by their trash can.


Bowden plans to get even more flags for her home after her husband convinced her out of “dying a big rainbow” on her lawn.


Window Cracked


Paducah police are also investigating a cracked window found at Heartland Equality, a local LGBTQ resource center. Heartland Equality Director of Operations Dustin Havens said the center’s landlord noticed a crack in one of their windows and called Havens, eventually leading to a report filed with police on Monday. 


“It kind of took us by surprise, because our whole thing is making it a safe space, and if something would have been going on, that kind of violates that safe space,” Havens said. “That makes people not feel safe, not feel welcoming, not feel an environment where they can totally be themselves.”


Havens said he believed the damaged window — which he said had a “triangular-shaped hole” in the center of the crack — was intentional because of the thickness of the glass and the location of it on the window. 


“It’s high enough up where it couldn’t be just someone leaning up against there, somebody bumping it,” Havens said. “It’s thick glass. It doesn’t just break.” 


Since the center opened in 2019, he said there hasn’t been an incident of this magnitude targeting the center. The incident report filed by police stated the estimated value of the window was $700, though Havens said that estimate could be over $1,000 dollars after consultation with the center’s landlord. The center is fundraising to replace the window on social media and also takes donations through phone calls. 


The incident report filed by police stated the officer “did not observe any impact locations that would have caused the damage.” No other windows at the center or elsewhere in the area were damaged, according to the report. Havens said he disagreed with part of the report, in that he believed something could have impacted the window to cause the damage. 


Neither Havens nor Bowden are sure if the two incidents are connected, but both believe the incidents are driven by a prejudice against the LBGTQ community. 


“Clearly, there needs to be education, there needs to be dialogue, to prevent these acts of hate crimes to go further in the future,” Havens said. 


Paducah Police Department Spokesperson Robin Newberry said both investigations are still open, with the department having “some leads” regarding the flags that were burned. Newberry said those with tips are welcome to call the department. 


"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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