A veteran has retrieved two cherished flags from Richfield police after thieves brazenly stole them, along with seven flags in other locations, from the front yard of his south Minneapolis home.

Mike Bailey, 74, typically flies a POW/MIA flag along with the Stars and Stripes on a flagpole high above his stucco house in the Ericsson neighborhood. He didn't know the flags were gone until his neighbor, George Lougee, told him. He said he was sad, while his wife, Marji, was angry.

"In 35 years, we've not had anybody do anything like that," he said. "I think they probably did it after dark."

Guillermo Perez Soberanes, 23, of Chaska; Abhiraj Mohan, 24, no address given, and Iemawn Chughtai, 21, of Minneapolis, have been charged with misdemeanor theft and fourth-degree damage to property.

Police Lt. Joe Griffin said police don't know how many flags were taken. The department occasionally sees campaign sign thefts, he said, but nothing like this.

"A lot of times those are pranks," he said. "This is pretty unusual."

Richfield police responded to reports of a flag theft shortly after midnight last Saturday, Griffin said. A caller gave police a description of the car the suspects were driving.

Officers pulled it over and found the three suspects inside, along with some campaign signs and a list of protests in the area.

Police on Monday visited Lougee while knocking on doors trying to find the flags' owners. The officers knew the flags were taken from the vicinity, Lougee said, because they had found a list of addresses on a notepad in the suspects' car.

Lougee told Bailey about the officers' visit and that he could go to the Richfield police station to get the flags. He said he was impressed police took the time to track down the owners.

"It was so cool to have that happen," he said. "We're in war-torn southern Minneapolis, and here Richfield police are returning our flags."

Griffin said he wasn't sure exactly how the officers found the flags' owners and made contact with them but said he believes social media were involved. Returning items identifies victims and gives officers more information about the crime, he said.

Bailey went to the station Tuesday. It was "very satisfying" to get the flags back, he said, noting that they were even folded and tucked properly.

To Bailey, a Vietnam-era U.S. Air Force veteran, the flags commemorate the soldiers dying and the families left shattered by war. He flies the flags specifically in memory of his brothers, Bill, who died in a crash while in the Air Force in 1957, and Jack, also in the Air Force, who died in 1966 when his plane was shot down over North Vietnam.

He hasn't yet returned the flags to his flagpole, he said, because he's waiting to get a stronger cord of nylon and stainless steel. "It's awfully expensive, but I don't want to have to take the flagpole down again," he said.

Bailey said he couldn't imagine why someone would pilfer his flags, but Lougee's wife, Julie, said she thought it was a statement on the United States. "I think that right now, there's just a lot of bashing of our country," she said.

George Lougee said he remembers a time when American flags were everywhere. After this incident, he said, "Mine's going to fly all the time."

Erin Adler • 612-673-1781