Police in Laurel, Maryland are investigating a doll hanging from noose found outside an African American church over the weekend.
A maintenance employee found the doll with racial epithets written on it at about 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 31, according to church officials.
"I called the police immediately and they came and said it was a hate crime," church pastor Gregory Strong told the Laurel Leader. "It was very disturbing and very alarming."
"Laurel city spokesman James Collins said in addition to having a swastika drawn on it, the doll had racially offensive statements written on it that targeted President Barack Obama, African Americans and Muslims," The Leader reported.
"The words are very offensive and the doll could be seen clearly from Laurel Park Drive, so this was not just a doll hanging from a tree, but a hate crime that chose this mainly African-American church," Collins explained.
"This was not a prank, but a serious hate crime that will carry hefty jail time. It was something planned because the words on the doll were written neatly, so they probably did it elsewhere and brought it to the church."
The police took fingerprints from the rope and the doll but had no leads as of Monday.
"Small children would not know some of the terms written on the doll, like pickaninny (a derogatory term used to describe blacks as far back as slavery times)," observed Strong. "It was meant to intimidate the congregation two days before Election Day."