5 houses targeted in possible hate crime

By: Kate Burgess Email
By: Kate Burgess Email

SEYMOUR, Tenn. (WVLT)--Race, religion and sexual orientation are under attack in one Sevier county neighborhood. Racist graffiti was sprayed all over people's houses and fences in Seymour. Local and federal authorities are calling it a possible hate crime.

One of the victims told us, his family has been under attack before.

"This ain't the first vandalization. It's just the first one that they've said to 'die,'" he said.

Crude swastikas and things like "die Mex" scrawled all over 5 properties in the Seymour neighborhood. The FBI's trying to find out who did it. People who were attacked have their own ideas.

Victim James Taylor said, "It's all coming from one place. Before they moved in we never had this problem."

A problem that's been getting worse.

"It starts from little stuff and it continues to grow. How do you feel when you go out to your pool....you got a dead cat in there? You can't find the head?" He added. "We've had people come out, threaten me with knives, people come by here all the time yelling racial slurs."

His wife, Maria, the target.

"I just don't understand why they'd do that to me. I'm a U.S. citizen. I was born in Mexico, but I am a U.S. citizen. Why would they do that? Why would they do that to me?" She asked.

Sunday morning the Taylors and some of their neighbors found these signs on their front lawns and nooses hanging from their trees.

Another victim, Bradley Owens, said, "I'm very mad. That's my family. I hate to see anything happen like that to any of us. It's not right."

She says the attack hurts her feelings, but she's more worried for her children.

In tears, she told us, "When my son can't even sleep in his own bed. He comes to our bed because he says 'mom, I'm scared of the signs,' that hurts me."

Taylor just wants the attacks to stop.

"I want everybody in this neighborhood to live in peace like it used to be, before some people moved here. They don't want to be friends with everybody? That's fine. Keep it to yourselves, don't come and attack people that never, ever did a thing to you."

The FBI couldn't comment on the investigation, but they gave the Taylors some reassurance.

James said, "We're working on it, this isn't going to happen no more. That was basically the answer when they left."

If this is determined to be a hate crime, whoever's responsible could face jail time, large fines, and could be sentenced to pay restitution to the victims.

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