Baptist Church Vandalized By KKK After Racist Deputy’s Comments
Via USA Today reports:
Members of Mount Olive Primitive Baptist Church in Wakulla County arrived for choir practice Wednesday night to find “KKK” spray-painted on the side of their church.
It is the third predominantly black church in the rural county this week that has been vandalized with racial remarks, sparking an FBI investigation into what appear to be hate crimes. Along with two churches on Sunday, a truck at Wildwood Golf Course was also painted with “KKK.”
Investigators believe the most recent vandalism happened Wednesday afternoon. Federal officers are working with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office investigating the crimes.
Mount Olive is just minutes from New Bridge Hope Missionary Baptist Church and Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Church, which were vandalized on Sunday. Several street signs also had “KKK” painted on them.
Wakulla County NAACP Organizing Committee President Anginita Rosier said the racially charged vandalism has shocked the community, both white and black.
“The whole community is in shock right now that we still have these things occurring,” she said as a member of the church painted over the letters. But the unity of the community has been reassuring.
“If there’s a positive out of this negative behavior it’s really bound the citizens of this county together,” Rosier said. “It’s affected everyone to the point that everyone is anxious to see someone held accountable for these crimes.”
Wakulla County Sheriff Charlie Creel said investigators cleared a suspect in Sunday’s vandalism on Wednesday, but would be pursuing three more on Thursday. The sheriff’s office had offered a $5,000 for information leading to an arrest.
FBI and county investigators were on scene Wednesday night taking paint samples from the street signs and pouring plaster tire molds in a field behind the church.
Creel said he is concerned by the rash of apparent hate crimes in the county, but doesn’t think it indicates a coordinated effort.
“I don’t think this is an active group that the community’s got to be concerned about,” Creel said, but is instead the work of individuals looking to “stir stuff up.”
“They’re cowards hiding behind a spray can,” he said.
Dale Landry, vice president of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, said the problem lies only in a few bold individuals.
“We’ve got a problem in Wakulla, but I think Wakulla is rising to the occasion to deal with it,” Landry said. “I want to see (racism) disappear in my lifetime. What we’ve got to do is start working at it and combating it and exposing it.”
Mount Olive Pastor Samuel Hayes said he is not deterred from leading a healing in the midst of the racial outbursts.
“Any means for harm, God turns into good,” said Hayes, who has been pastor at Mount Olive for 22 years. “This is going to bring us together. I’ve run across so many wonderful people in this county. We’re a family.”
The community will hold a prayer vigil on Thursday at New Bridge Hope, the venue of a contentious Nov. 28 town hall meeting following the suspension of five Wakulla County deputies over racially charged online comments.
A $5,000 reward had been offered for information leading to the arrest of individuals responsible for the incident. Anyone with knowledge about the crime was urged to call the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office. Please come forth with any information!