07/22/08 — Family finds cross burning in yard

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Family finds cross burning in yard

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on July 22, 2008 1:48 PM

DUDLEY -- Gerald Buchanan moved to a mobile home park on Timothy Street in Dudley just two months ago.

On Saturday morning, he woke up to find a flaming wooden cross mounted on a cinder block just outside his children's window.

News-Argus/Nick Hiltunen

This cross was found burning in the yard of Gerald Buchanan of Dudley. A neighbor has been charged in the incident, the Wayne County Sheriff's Office said.

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Buchanan and his girlfriend, Tangie Wesley, have been together 12 years.

Buchanan is white. Ms. Wesley is black. They have four children.

Earlier, the couple had an argument with a neighbor, who has been charged with building the cross, setting it up and setting it afire.

The Wayne County Sheriff's Office said Dixon Steward, 38, was jailed under $500 bond on a charge of ethnic intimidation.

"I just can't believe -- this is 2008 -- I just can't believe that something like this is still going on," Ms. Wesley said. "The fact that there was a burning cross while I was in bed, that's just creepy."

Buchanan said he came home from work Friday night expecting a quiet weekend. He had to go to work early the next morning.

"When it happened, we were in the bed," Buchanan said. "Just a normal day, come in, get a shower, eat dinner."

But the couple had had some problems with their across-the-street neighbors before, and Friday night was no exception.

The couple said their neighbors had learned that they had called for authorities' help on a separate matter earlier that week.

That created animosity against Ms. Wesley and her four children, Buchanan said.

"My lady was sitting outside, and hear them fussing across the street at us: 'We're going to do a drive-by,' different things, 'We're going to get you,' and all this type of stuff.

"I feel like it was targeted at our whole entire household," Buchanan said.

After it was extinguished, the cross was thrown on a burn pile not far from a demolished trailer. Buchanan had to ask a neighbor where to go to find the cross, which he picked up and threw on the ground.

The four children played guessing games as to where the wood for the cross came from, supposing it might have come from the demolished trailer.

"Let's talk facts," Buchanan told his children. "Let's say things that we know happened, not things that we're guessing."

Buchanan said that after moving to Dudley, he was laid off from the job he had made the move for.

The problems with the neighbors have made him rethink the move, he admitted.

"I didn't have kids to let bad things happen, it's my job to protect my kids," Buchanan said.