SIOUX CITY | U.S. Rep. Steve King said he removed a Confederate flag from the desk in his Capitol Hill office in the aftermath of last fall's shooting deaths of two Des Moines area police officers by a man with ties to the controversial banner.
Scott Michael Greene, 46, was apprehended after Des Moines Sgt. Anthony Beminio and Urbandale officer Justin Martin were shot in ambush-style attacks while sitting in their squad cars in separate locations in November. Greene has since been charged with two counts of first-degree murder. After the arrest, a video emerged showing different officers in October asking Greene to leave an Urbandale High School football game after Greene unfurled a Confederate flag in the stands near African-American students.
"That connection to that murderer, and that incident that may or may not have had something to do with him assaulting and murdering those officers, that's the reason I went and took that flag down off my desk," King said.
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Some critics contended the flag, which Confederate troops carried into battle during the Civil War, symbolizes bigotry. King's Iowa 4th congressional district opponent Kim Weaver and other Democrats called on him to take down the flag, pointing out that Iowa troops fought for the Union in the bloody conflict that freed African-American slaves.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said they disagreed with King's decision to have a Confederate flag in his office.
In an interview with the Journal Monday, King pointed out he voluntarily removed the flag "not because anyone demanded or requested that it come down.
"I took it down myself, without responding to any of those criticisms," he said.
After Dylann Roof, a white supremist, shot and killed nine parishioners in a predominantly African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, state lawmakers removed the Confederate flag flying over the state Capitol. Federal lawmakers also debated whether to allow Confederate flags on some federal lands. King in a July 9, 2015, speech on the House floor argued the flag, a symbol of heroism and pride for many Southerners, shouldn't be pulled down.
King said the country had healed after Reconstruction and the civil rights era.
"I regret deeply that we are watching this country be divided again over a symbol," the 4th District congressman said at the time on the House floor.