Alabama sheriff calls cross burner coward; says his community is united and safe

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MACON COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – A late-night cross burning along an Interstate 85 overpass in east Alabama is being called a cowardly hate crime by local law enforcement. The Thursday night incident is now under investigation by the FBI, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, and the Macon County Sheriff’s Office.

Macon County Sheriff Andre Brunson says there’s a $1,000.00 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or group responsible for what is now being considered a felony hate crime.

In exclusive video shared with News 3 by driver John Bolton, you can see flames licking a makeshift wood cross along the Country Road 54 interstate 85 overpass and lighting up the night sky.

Sheriff Andre Brunson urges unity after cross burning

“Whoever did this, it was a cowardly act,” said Sheriff Andre Brunson.

Sheriff Brunson says the hate crime was not only cowardly, but it was also dangerous. He’s thankful Bolton, and two others moved the burning cross away from the bridge’s side, preventing embers from falling onto vehicles traveling below on the busy interstate. Sheriff Brunson says he does not personally believe the KKK is involved. However, he says the case remains under investigation.

“In my opinion, it’s a small group of people who did this, and as I said, don’t be a cowered, come forward if you did it and tell us why you did it and what you are trying to do,” urged Sheriff Brunson.

Sheriff Brunson says the cross-burning did scare people in his community, and he’s hoping the reward will flush out those responsible.

Photo: John Bolton

“We will get to the bottom of it. I want to tell people don’t be afraid we got your back at the Macon County Sheriff’s Department. All law enforcement we will do what we need to do to protect our community, all of our communities,” said Sheriff Brunson.

Sheriff Brunson doesn’t believe the KKK is behind the burning but rather a coward’s attempt to divide east Alabama, which has seen only peaceful protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the arrest of four now-former law enforcement officers in his murder.

Sheriff Brunson is determined to ensure the burning cross only serves to ignite unity.

“It’s unfortunate with what is going on in the world today. Peaceful protests are good. We don’t have rioting, no looting. We are here for peaceful protests, and we support you. I will stand with you on that. I am especially proud that not only black people but also white people are joining us, and Asian people are joining in. All races are joining in this fight. If we stick together, if we band together, we will be undefeated,” said Sheriff Brunson.

Sheriff Brunson says the bridge is isolated, so he believes the responsible party knows the area. If you have any information, please call 911.

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