TAMPA — Tribune columnist Steve Otto spent some time with federal fugitive Martin Winters when Winters’ giant American flag first started causing a stir in Valrico three years ago.
Otto’s column on Winters appeared around Flag Day in June 2011, under the headline, “Don’t tread on Marty.”
“I found Winters sitting on a lawn chair with a couple of buddies at the corner of the huge lot,” Otto wrote then. “The parcel is empty except for the flagpole with the building halfway up it, and the flag itself, which Winters said was shipped in from California and measures 60 by 30 feet.”
With Winters’ arrest this morning on suspicion of manufacturing destructive devices, following a three-day manhunt by the FBI, some of Otto’s observations then take on a new light.
“Martin ‘Marty’ Winters obviously is a flag person,” Otto wrote. “You also would have to say Winters doesn’t like to be pushed. If you do so, you pretty much can figure on getting pushed back.”
Asked his reaction to today’s news, Otto recalled Winters as strident in defense of what he saw as patriotic principles.
“He was a very likeable guy,” Otto recalled.
“I think there’s a lot of them out there for whom there’s no middle ground. They’re just unable to compromise with the other side.”
Otto added, “You could just see there was edge there.”