Officials Hope Ill-Advised Move Will Lead To Someone Turning Them In

RONKONKOMA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It was a heinous crime on Long Island. Police are hunting down vandals who trashed a 9/11 memorial.

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As CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported Wednesday, the search for suspects has been given a big boost following a bad move by the alleged criminals.

Surveillance video shows a group of young people vandalizing a 9/11 memorial at a sports complex in Ronkonkoma. A plaque honoring local heroes was ripped from its mounting and the site’s flags were torn down and taken, police said.

“I was part of 9/11, so were a lot of individuals here that are firemen and police officers, and this was a very special thing to us,” said Stephen Smith of the Connetquot Youth Association.

Smith, a former police officer, is the president of the youth association pursuing a case with Suffolk County police.

The surveillance video that captured the incident at around 3 a.m. is decent, but for some reason some of the suspects decided to go up on that roof, standing right in front of another camera, Langford reported.

It is not known if the easily identified individuals actually took the 9/11 plaque, but Smith said they were part of the group that night and as such might want to come forward.

“I’m sure they are a little nervous and they probably will end up turning someone in because they don’t want to get in trouble,” Smith said.

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Firefighter William Mahoney Jr., to whom one of the ball diamonds at the site is dedicated, volunteered as a coach when his four children played sports growing up. He was 38 when he was killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Unfortunately Billy Mahoney never made it out of the building and gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Smith said.

It’s hard to imagine that nearly 12 years after the attacks some young people might not understand the enduring pain. But at the desecrated shrine there is a visceral urge to teach them.

“I would hope those kids learn from an incident like this and maybe have a little more respect for their country,” Smith said.

It may be starting to sink in since this past weekend someone returned the 9/11 plaque wrapped in one of the stolen flags by tossing it back over a fence.

Officials said they will re-dedicate the plaque to 9/11 heroes after a police investigation.

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