The FBI is conducting a federal hate crime investigation after several predominately black churches in Florida were vandalized with racist Ku Klux Klan markings.
New Bridge Hope Missionary Baptist Church and Pilgrim Rest P.B. Church in Crawford discovered before services on Sunday morning that the letters “KKK” had been painted on church signs. A truck parked near the Wildwood Golf Club’s property also had the same large letters painted on it, according to WCTV.
“I rushed out to see it and then, I just prayed a quick prayer. I said ‘The Lord will be with us with this situation.’ So we are praying, and we are depending on the Lord,” lifelong New Bridge Hope Missionary Baptist Church member Olivia Howard recalled.
The Tallahassee Democrat reported that the incident could be connected to two Wakulla County deputies who were suspended after writing inappropriate comments about protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. The deputies expressed support for Officer Darren Wilson, who was not charged after killing unarmed teen Michael Brown, and one of them referred to protesters as “cockroaches.”
“Damn cockroaches! Squash ’em all!!!! I say we rally for Wilson, who’s with me?” Wakulla County Deputy Richard Moon wrote.
Local NAACP leaders had held a community meeting at New Bridge Hope Missionary Baptist Church about the deputies just days before the vandalism occurred. Wakulla NAACP Organizing Committee Anginita Rosier told the Democrat that the crime was not a coincidence.
“We feel [the incident] is directly related to the incident related to the Sheriff’s Department and the officers who have been suspended so far, pending the outcome of the investigation,” she explained.
The NAACP’s efforts to form a local chapter in Wakulla County may also be linked to the hate crime.
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.
Watch the video below from the Tallahassee Democrat.
Watch the video below from WCTV.