New York City police are looking to talk to five young men they believe were on the Brooklyn Bridge around the time the American flags were replaced with white ones.
Law enforcement officials told ABC News today that they don't have any official suspects or persons of interest in the case of the swapped flags, but they are looking to speak with the five men seen on surveillance video who appear to be in their early 20s.
Surveillance video captured images of a group walking onto the bridge around 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning, police said. Around 3:30 a.m., the lights that illuminate the American flags flickered and then went out. At 5:30 a.m., construction workers at the bridge discovered bleached American flags had replaced the normal ones.
The five men were captured on surveillance video but the images were not good enough to make out their faces, law enforcement sources told ABC News today. One may have been carrying a skateboard.
New York's First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris called the incident a "foolish stunt" in an interview with ABC News today.
Law enforcement sources also said the police that were on duty that night watching the bridge would not be disciplined for the security breach because it is not viewed as a lapse by them; their job is to watch for suspicious cars, officials said.
Additional cameras are being installed, officials said. One federal law enforcement source told ABC News that the cameras on the bridge “are known to be bad at night."
“I’m not particularly happy about the event,” NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said Tuesday.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller, who also oversees intelligence and counter-terrorism, said tests were being conducted on the two bleached flags.
"At this time, there is no sign of any particular nexus to terrorism or even politics," Miller said Tuesday. "It could be someone's art project or a statement, but it's not clear what that statement is."
The perpetrators may have had some experience climbing in construction or bridgework, or have previously been up to the bridge’s flag platforms, Miller said. The vandals would have had to have climbed some cables to reach the platform, and covered the lights with aluminum pans and zip ties that fit perfectly over the lights.
Either way, authorities said, whoever pulled off the breach was able to scale 276 feet, somehow making it past the locked gates that sit atop the bridge’s steel cables.
Eric Adams, Brooklyn’s borough president, is offering $5,000 for information leading to an arrest.
“This is the Brooklyn Bridge, and the only person who should surrender at this time is the person responsible for the desecration of this flag,” Adams said, referring to the white flags.
The famed bridge, one of the country’s oldest suspension bridges, was completed in 1883 and connects Brooklyn and Manhattan over the East River.