GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s been a rough campaign season, with passions running high on all sides. But for one man in Grand Rapids’ Alger Heights neighborhood, passion transformed into lawlessness.
About a month ago, Steve Goebel, a 61-year-old retired corrections officer who worked at a state prison in Ionia, decided to make his presidential choice known. He placed an oversized Donald Trump banner on the front of the house on Eastern Avenue near Alger Street where he has lived in his whole life.
“That lasted about two weeks,” Goebel said of the banner. “I put the next one up. That lasted two days. OK. Put another one back up.”
In addition to another sign, Goebel put up video cameras on trees in his yard. That move paid off around 7:15 a.m. Monday.
“My girlfriend woke me up this morning and said, ‘Your flag just got stolen again,'” Goebel said. “It got stolen, but I got video.”
The camera captured the theft, including a nice, clear shot of the face and clothing of the perpetrator.
“Oh, when I saw this I was just ecstatic. I finally caught them,” Goebel said. “I just wish she would’ve gotten me out of bed, so I could’ve chased the down. I’d go full-blown corrections and he would know me for life.”
Instead, in a move that was probably best for everyone, Goebel went to talk to the principal of nearby Alger Middle School, who confirmed to him and later to 24 Hour News 8 that the suspected thief is a student there. Goebel also waited outside the school, saw the juvenile he believes is the thief and reported that to police, who are investigating.
There is no specific state law addressing the theft of political signs. However, the juvenile could face trespassing, malicious destruction of property and theft charges. A Grand Rapids Public Schools spokesperson said the youngster may also face discipline from his school.
“I will not have my rights denied. I can say what I want in this country. I can vote for who I want in this country,” Goebel said.
“I’m done putting up with it,” he continued. “My girlfriend says, ‘You’re just going to be one of them angry white dudes.’ Uh-huh.”
Goebel says his great-uncle, Paul Goebel, was the mayor of Grand Rapids in the 1950s and his grandfather Frank Goebel was city manager prior to that.
Several local law enforcement agencies told 24 Hour News 8 this election season has not been much different than any other when it comes to sign theft. They say most of the reports they get are of signs being illegally placed or removed by city workers. Other instances are simple vandalism and are almost never politically motivated.