On Wednesday (Dec. 20), WCNC reported that a white couple in South Carolina are now being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation after setting fire to a cross facing their Black neighbors’ residence.
The incident took place during this past Thanksgiving weekend, and the suspects, Worden Evander Butler, 28, and Alexis Paige Hartnett, 27, were subsequently arrested and given state harassment charges. Notably, South Carolina is one of only two states in the United States without a hate crime law, which would allow extra punishment for unlawful acts motivated by race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, national origin or physical or mental ability.
Since opening an inquiry, the FBI has raided the home of Butler and Hartnett, who are currently free on bond. “We are working jointly with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as well as our local and state partners, to thoroughly examine this matter, and we’re dedicated to ensuring equality and fairness within our communities,” read an official statement from the agency. “We have also been in communication with local community organizations to understand their concerns surrounding this matter and to emphasize our commitment to fostering trust and accountability.”
The Black couple who witnessed the burning cross about eight feet from their Myrtle Beach home told WCNC that they have discussed leaving the area. Prior to being terrorized during the Thanksgiving holiday, Monica Williams claimed that they were regularly being tormented. “The N-word over and over, ‘We need to get out of here,’ the whole bit,” she stated. “We’re not safe and we feel like [Butler] means business when he says he wants to do harm.”
“You just hope that, in this country that you served proudly and honorably, that you can live in peace proudly and honorably,” added Monica’s partner, Shawn Williams. “This has to stop. Hate is something you learn.”