White Man Accused Of Burning Cross On Black Neighbours’ Front Lawn
A man from Virginia has been accused of burning a cross on his Black neighbours’ front lawn.
James Michael Brown, 40, who is white, was held in custody Friday, June 26, in connection with a cross burning that took place at approximately 12.55am on June 14 at his neighbours’ Marion home.
He was arrested on a federal criminal complaint which charged him with lying to federal agents as well as criminal interference with fair housing based on a person’s race.
As per court documents, the Marion Police Department received a report of a burning cross at the residence of a Black family, with one family member having organised a civil rights protest the day prior to the incident.
Investigators from the Marion Police Department worked alongside the FBI in the days after the incident, and learned of Brown’s involvement.
After investigators questioned Brown about his connection with the cross-burning incident, Brown allegedly lied to them, and told them he hadn’t been involved.
However, during police interviews, witnesses stated Brown had indeed admitted to burning the cross and that he had used racial epithets when speaking about his Black neighbours.
A Black woman flagged down an officer who had been responding to a report of a possible gunshot, and informed him somebody had put a burning cross in her front yard, NBC Washington reports. Her son had organised a protest in Marion the day before.
An officer then put out a ‘significant’ fire inside a barrel and recovered a wooden cross which had been propped up against it. Cloth attached to the cross reportedly had a sweet smell, indicating that a propellant had been used.
In a statement, US Attorney Thomas T. Cullen said:
The frightening act at the center of today’s complaint—a racially motivated cross burning—interfered with the victim’s federally protected right to fair housing.
Acts of violence, threats, and other forms of intimidation prompted by racial animus are serious federal crimes, and we will continue to work closely with the FBI to hold offenders accountable.
Acting Special Agent in Charge, Neil L. Mathison, said:
The FBI is committed to protecting all citizens, and will aggressively investigate acts of intimidation or violence against anyone based on race or ethnicity.
We thank the Marion County Police Department, the Smyth County Sheriff’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office’s Western District of Virginia for their swift and direct attention to this incident.
Brown is said to live across the street from the family in question. As per NBC Washington, he made a brief appearance in court on Friday, June 26, and was put in custody until his detention hearing, which has been set for Tuesday, June 30.
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CreditsDepartment of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Virginia and 1 other
Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Virginia