The FBI is leading the investigation of what appear to be hate crimes at two predominantly black churches in Wakulla County. Church signs and marquees were spray-painted with the letters”KKK.” There was also a third incident of “KKK” sprayed on a parked truck at the Wildwood Golf Course, 3870 Coastal Highway. Federal officers are working with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office.
Few details have been released but officials indicate the incidents took place overnight Saturday or early Sunday morning.
Targeted churches were Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Church, 189 Harvey-Melton Road off Coastal Highway, and New Bridge Hope Missionary Baptist Church, 1282 Spring Creek Highway — the venue of a recent contentious town hall meeting in the wake of racially insensitive online comments made by a WCSO deputy.
The incidents have rattled many Crawfordville residents, including church leaders.
Like every Sunday, New Bridge Hope’s Pastor Derek Howard parked in his usual spot.
He arrived around 8:30 a.m., before the start of Sunday school service. Howard spotted the black letters spray-painted on the church marquee, and immediately looked behind him.
“I saw it as a threat. I didn’t know if someone was behind me or still in the area,” he said.
Minutes went by and he calmed down. He thought, “Well, God’s got it. I’ll be alright.”
Howard said the disturbing incident will not stop the church from its mission. “We’re going to continue to preach the word and teach the word,” he said. “This is a hate crime on the church and the membership here, but it’s also on the community as a whole.”
Ruth Francis, a member of New Bridge Hope, said she feels sorry for whoever committed this act.
“This is 2014 and they’re still in the olden days,” Francis said.
New Bridge Hope, with roughly 100 members, is adjacent to a small grocery store and is easily accessible from the road. Pilgrim, with roughly 40 to 45 active members, sits about a quarter mile off a dirt road. Its blue and white church sign is perched just at the dirt road’s entrance off Coastal Highway.
Some say the defacing isn’t an accurate reflection of racial attitudes in Wakulla. Others argue racism has deep roots in the rural county.
The incidents come on the heels of a Nov. 28 town hall meeting hosted by the NAACP and the suspension of five Wakulla deputies last week over online comments.
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SOURCE: Tallahassee Democrat