YORK, Maine – Trooper Charles Black was shot and killed during a bank robbery in 1964. On the anniversary of his death, his family flew a thin blue line flag on a utility pole outside their home to commemorate his sacrifice.
But because we live in a society where everyone is offended by something, the fallen officer’s son was quickly forced to take it down, due to complaints from local residents.
After having no choice, the family admitted defeat and removed the flag from its display.
But the fight wasn’t over. Outraged was spread across the country as members of the Blue Family chastised the town’s decision to take the flag down.
And on Monday night, the officer’s son, who is also named Charlie Black, got a little help from the York Police.
Law Enforcement Today spoke with someone close to the Black family on Tuesday.
“On their own time and with their own money, members of the York Police Dept. went yesterday to Trooper Black’s widow’s house, dug a hole, erected a flag pole, and hoisted a Thin Blue Line flag on it,” the source said.
She said that the incredible display from the Maine department came at the perfect time.
“Today is the youngest son’s birthday, who never met his officer father, since he was born three weeks after the murder. This has got to be one of the finest birthday presents he’s ever received.”
Unconfirmed reports suggested that the the diversity forum in the Maine town has received so much backlash that they are considering disbanding.
Here’s how it all began.
The initial flag being flown from the telephone pole was what led to area residents flipping out about an “offensive symbol” on public property.
The town manager of York, Maine said it started when a person walked into his office to complain.
“A resident came in and said there’s a problem,” Town Manager Steve Burns said.
The resident said:
“This is a flag that represents segregation and discrimination.”
Burn could have just laughed it off. He didn’t. He instead called the family. Why? Who knows. He seems surprised that the widow took the news hard.
“This is just ripping a wound in her heart,” Burn said.” It was pure instant emotion for her and her whole family.”
The mother requested that her son take down the flag after all of the pushback from the town.
Now her son is beyond angry that the tribute to his father had gotten mired in a politically-charged debate.
“This is not a racist white supremacist symbol, and I’m angry it’s portrayed that way,” Charlie Black said.
The trooper’s widow happens to be the former York selectman, Mary Black Andrews. She said the last thing she wanted was to stoke divisions.
“God forbid we should offend anyone,” she said. “It bothers me tremendously. It’s the anniversary of his death. He gave his life to protect the public, and I gave my life to this town, and we can’t even celebrate this person. I’m sorry I offended them. It’s coming down and it won’t happen again.”
Here’s the back story on the trooper who was killed.
It happened on July 9, 1964 in York, Maine.
State Trooper Charlie Clinton Black readied himself for a day of testimony in court in nearby Berwick.
The trooper was 28-years-old, a veteran of the United States Air Force and had already given 6 years of service to the Maine State Police. He said his morning farewells to his two small boys and his 27 year old wife Mary who was 9 months pregnant with their third child.
Trooper Black drove his cruiser away from his family, never to come home again.
Son of slain Maine state trooper says it’s time to move on after Thin Blue Line flag removed https://t.co/wEpvwlJQg5
— Bangor Daily News (@bangordailynews) July 30, 2019
Seacoastonline reports that Trooper Black spent his morning at the courthouse but took a break outside on the front steps. On the other side of the building, two men piled out of a Buick and ran into the First National Bank.
The men wore masks, dark coveralls and large hats. A bystander by the name of Walter Buckley ran to the young Trooper yelling that the bank was being robbed. Without hesitation, Trooper Black darted in the direction of the bank.
Trooper Black ran right into the robbers as they fled the bank, bags of cash in their arms. As the officer was mid-draw of his service weapon, the first shot was fired. Black fell to the ground, killed instantly.
Walter Buckley, who followed behind Black, managed to grab the trooper’s gun and hold one criminal in place. However, the thief who shot Black escaped, Seacoastonline reports.
Back in York, a neighbor ran to the Black home, telling his wife Mary only that there had been an accident. Mary was shocked as Charlie was due in court, not on patrol. She tuned in to the police scanner for news. She recalls:
“I heard it on the radio. That’s how I was notified.”
The man who murdered Trooper Black was eventually apprehended. He had escaped from a prison in New Jersey only seven days prior, according to Seacoastonline. He was sentenced to life in prison… but was released after only 7.
Black’s widow, only 27 years old in 1964 with three babies under 6, became a shining light for police families in Maine. She helped in the passage of a bill providing assistance to families left behind. Eventually, she became a Maine state legislator serving her constituents and survivors.
Family of murdered officer forced to remove Thin Blue Line flag on anniversary of death: “It’s racist.” https://t.co/EwkKKQX5gL
— Craig Zinkoski (@USMCE5) July 30, 2019
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Up until this controversy, Mary Black Andrews flew that Thin Blue Line Flag in memory of her young husband who courageously served, running into the conflict when many would have run away. The flag is a sign of support not only for the men and women who serve today, but have sacrificed through the years, billowing from the same home that Trooper Black drove away from 55 years ago this month.
The York Diversity Forum sought a meeting with Burns as the organization feels the flag can be interpreted as racist. Residents feel that the flag is a symbol used by white supremicists.
Susan Kepner, president of the Form, said that white nationalists used the Thin Blue Line flag as one of their symbols in the Charlottesville rally that turned deadly… and so that somehow makes the flag racist.
“It looks just like an American flag but it’s black and white,” Kepner told News Center Maine. “We were concerned about the message that sends. We get along well with the Police Department, and we honor fallen heroes as well as anyone else. We would just like positive messages out there.”
She claims the problem is the public property.
“If people want to hang the flag on their private property, that’s their right. But it could be a can of worms if we allow flags all over town on those brackets.”
But here’s the thing. According to York Police Chief Charles Szeniawski, the town doesn’t have a policy about placing flags in places other than private residences.
“There is no policy about flags. Can anyone put anything up there? I don’t know. Maybe it’s something we should look at.”
He says people are twisting the meaning of the flag.
“It’s how people interpret it,” he said. “For most officers that’s the Thin Blue Line flag. Just because you’re an officer doesn’t allow you to do anything you want. You can’t cross that line. That’s what it means to most of us.”
In turn, Burns said to WGME that the implication of a racial bias behind the flag is out of line saying:
“It pains me what she is going through emotionally with this issue.”
May we all pay our respects to Trooper Charlie Clinton Black, end of watch July 9, 1964, and wave our flags proudly in his honor.