The Wakulla County Sheriff’s office is offering a $1,000 reward for any information regarding possible hate crimes at two predominately black churches and a box truck outside a country club in Crawfordville over the weekend.
“And, I’ve had people calling in to want to donate to the award, which does my heart good, thinking that people are civic-minded enough to want to do like I want to do, which is to bring out community together and everyone get along, which is my major goal,” said Creel.
And, while others are drawing connections between the “KKK” graffiti and the recent suspension of several Wakulla County deputies, Sheriff Charlie Creel says he’s not seeing it.
He recently suspended four deputies, including his Undersheriff, for making what he calls “insensitive” comments on Facebook regarding protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, following a grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown.
“I don’t think it’s connected,” said Creel. “I don’t! I just think it’s some kids who decided on a whim to go out and do something like this, but I don’t think it’s connected to the deputies.”
And, he doesn’t think it’s anyone belonging to the KKK either.
“I don’t think it had to do with the Ku Klux Klan,” he added. “I’ve never heard of there being a chapter down here.
“We’ve known for sometime based on information that has been provided by Southern Poverty Law Center, Klan Watch, and other groups that there are little pockets of white supremacists that are up in our area and some of them are in the Wakulla area and the rural areas around Leon County,” said Dale Landry.
Landry, the vice President of the Northern region of the NAACP, thinks there’s a direct connection between the KKK graffiti and the suspended deputies.
That’s because one of the sites—the New Bridge Hope Missionary Baptist Church—was the location of a recent Town Hall meeting held by Landry and Creel, following the deputies’ comments.
“That was the same site where we had the town hall meeting in the wake of the comments that were made by the deputies and this is where the community came out to not speak out at, but speak to the Sheriff and let the Sheriff know their concerns about what was written by the deputies. And, even more, about some of the past incidents involving at least one of the duties. So, it was there. And, it was a week later that this occurred. So, there’s a direct link,” Landry added.
Still, Landry says he’s not ruling out Creel’s hypothesis. But, he says regardless if it’s a prank or not, the reality is it’s the same mentality meant to cause uneasiness in a community trying to heal.
Meanwhile, both Landry and Creel say they were heartened and hopeful when members of a predominantly white church took the time Sunday to worship with the congregation of one of the vandalized predominantly black churches.
The FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were also called in to help investigate. The crime qualifies as a hate crime and the person responsible will be facing felony charges.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.