Man accused of trying to set American flag on fire at Miami Beach church

Anthony Henstchel, 38, has previously been disruptive at church, police say

Anthony Henstchel, 38, is accused of trying to burn an American flag after he was asked to leave a church in Miami Beach.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – A man was arrested Wednesday after he tried to set an American flag on fire at the St. Patrick Catholic Church in Miami Beach.

According to an arrest report, police were called to the church off Meridian Avenue and Barry Street shortly after 9 a.m.

Authorities said a witness told officers a man, later identified as Anthony Henstchel, 38, who is homeless, had been disruptive at the church in the past. However, he was allowed to stay for morning Mass.

Police said the witness told them Henstchel eventually began to disrupt the service and he was asked to leave.

The witness said Henstchel became angry and was escorted from the area where the service was being held. 

He then pulled out a lighter and began trying to burn the American flag, the witness said.

Police said there were visible burn marks on the tassels on the end of the flag.

According to the arrest report, the American flag, Catholic flag and a statue wrapped in a linen cloth for the Lent season were in close proximity of each other. Police said if one of the items had been set on fire, all of the items would have burned.

Police said the church is also an older building and there were some children attending the Mass. 

"All of these factors could have resulted in a catastrophic loss of life," the arrest report stated.

Police said an officer later spotted Henstchel and the witness identified him as the man who tried to burn the flag.

Henstchel was arrested on a second-degree attempted arson charge.

He appeared in court Thursday, when he was ordered held in lieu of a $15,000 bond.

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Liane Morejon is an Emmy-winning reporter who joined the Local 10 News family in January 2010. Born and raised in Coral Gables, Liane has a unique perspective on covering news in her own backyard.