Authorities investigate cross burning in Alabama

Authorities in Alabama are investigating a burning cross that was on an overpass above Interstate 85 near Tuskegee University, one of the country's most well-known historically black universities.

Macon County police responded to the scene on Thursday night, Macon County Sheriff Andre Brunson told local CBS affiliate WRBL. Brunson also told the outlet that his department is investigating the incident, but there are currently no suspects. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the FBI are also investigating the incident, which has since been classified as a federal hate crime, according to WVLT.

Bystanders spotted the burning cross, which had fallen onto the overpass rail, and moved it so it would not fall onto the highway below, WVLT reported. A motorist said he saw what “looked like a shadow” flee the scene as he approached the blaze. The sheriff's office helped put out the fire, and Brunson noted that a tire and a fuel canister had also been set on fire. 

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Burning crosses have long been a calling card of the Klu Klux Klan and other racist organizations, and Brunson told the Opelika-Auburn News that law enforcement "can’t let people get away doing that.”

"That is something to strike fear in people’s hearts, and we’re not going to let people make them afraid," he said. "We need to bring that person to justice."

Spray-painted graffiti, including a racial slur, was also at the scene, according to WVLT.

Brunson told WRBL there’s a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or group responsible.

Updated: 1:36 p.m.

Lisa Conley contributed.