SOMERVILLE, MA (WCVB/CNN) – Police are investigating a witness' claim that a man urinated on multiple American flags taken from graves in a veterans cemetery then laughed about it as he walked away.
George Gatteny, 53, couldn't believe what he saw when he stopped at a red light in front of Somerville Veterans Memorial Cemetery after work Monday.
"I saw the guy reach down and grab four to five American flags – small plastic ones – walk behind the monument and throw them down on the ground," Gatteny said. "He began to undo his pants, take himself out and urinate on the flags... I was shocked."
Gatteny said he was outraged by the act. He pulled over, got out of his car and began yelling at the man.
"I asked, 'What the hell do you think you're doing?'" he said.
According to Gatteny, the man casually walked away, laughing with a woman, whom the 53-year-old says was the man's girlfriend.
Gatteny followed the two, photographed them and posted about the incident on Facebook, where many others joined in his anger.
"Thank you for being the voice of those who were buried here. This is just disgusting and disgraceful," one commenter wrote.
Gatteny says we need to respect those who served and make sure something like this never happens again.
"It's just unacceptable, and the fact that they had no fear, no concern of any consequence whatsoever…" he said. "There are people who care and who will defend the flag… and stand up and say something."
Police are investigating the incident and say the man in Gatteny's photo is a person of interest.
Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone posted to social media, thanking Gatteny for his actions and encouraging anyone who knows the people involved to contact police.
"This is a foul and reprehensible act, and nothing justifies it. It's the act of someone operating at the absolute lowest level of humanity," he wrote.
The mayor said he is confident police will hold anyone found guilty following the investigation "fully responsible for these despicable actions."