Criminal busted stealing prized flags from retired Army veteran

Michael Welch (San Leandro Police Department)

Police returned a shotgun, various military paraphernalia, and two U.S. flags to their rightful owner, David Wallach, a retired Army sergeant from Oakland. He was given one of the flags when he retired, and the other flag was flown for 9 minutes and 11 seconds at an Army facility in Iraq in honor of the September 11 attacks.  The military gear was stolen from the sergeant as he was moving to Oakland from the Midwest earlier this month.

As reported by the Contra Costa Times, the sergeant was grateful to have his precious possessions returned and said, “Please give me a minute to take all this in.” The police did not orginally release the name of the sergeant, but said that he served in the Army for 20 years in Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, and Iraq.

In this photo taken June 18, 2015 in San Leandro, Calif., retired Army Sgt. David Wallach shows a flag that flew over his brigade's headquarters in Iraq. (KGO-TV)
In this photo taken June 18, 2015 in San Leandro, Calif., retired Army Sgt. David Wallach shows a flag that flew over his brigade’s headquarters in Iraq. (KGO-TV)

Michael Welch is suspected of stealing the military gear.  He had also allegedly stole a truck and replaced its license plates with plates he had removed from another vehicle. According to SFGate, he was also in possession of a loaded weapon that had its serial number illegally scratched off.

The Piedmont Patch reports that officers located Welch on Monday in front of his house in the 1700 block of 84th Avenue in San Leandro, which is directly south of Oakland. He had multiple warrants for his arrest including one that claimed he violated probation.

Because of the probation violation, the police were able to search Welch’s home without a search warrant. They found illegal narcotics and a stash of military equipment, according to police Lieutenant Robert McManus. Detectives investigating the case connected the recovered military items to the burglary of the sergeant’s U-Haul truck.

Welch was arrested on multiple outstanding arrest warrants, on suspicion of being a convicted felon in possession of a gun, possession of stolen property, auto theft, and drug-related crimes. Welch is due in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland on Friday.

Even though police were unable to find all of the sergeant’s items, they will keep the investigation open in an attempt to get all of the sergeant’s belongings back. “One of the best things about police work is that we are often reminded about the great impact we may have on someone else. In this case, words cannot describe how proud the detectives were to return the stolen belongings to a retired U.S. Army veteran,” McManus said.


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