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Indiana man charged with hate crime against Black neighbor for burning cross, displaying swastika

Indiana man charged with hate crime against Black neighbor for burning cross, displaying swastika
© Greg Nash

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday charged an Indiana man with a hate crime, saying he displayed swastikas, burning crosses and signs with racial slurs in an attempt to intimidate his Black neighbor.

DOJ officials said Shepherd Hoehn of Lawrence, Ind., held a grudge against his neighbor for removing a tree from his own property and "took several steps to intimidate and interfere with his neighbor and the construction workers” tasked with removing it.

The DOJ said Hoehn burned a cross above the fence line within view of his neighbor’s property, displayed a swastika on the side of his fence facing his neighbor and placed a sign bearing “anti-Black racial slurs” next to it. He also allegedly egged Hoehn’s house and played “Dixie,” an unofficial anthem of the Confederacy, on repeat.

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During a July 1 search of Hoehn’s home, police found drug paraphernalia and several firearms, which he could not legally own due to his status as a fugitive from a case in Missouri. Hoehn has been charged separately for the guns and faces up to 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000 for each of the charges.

"During the investigation, Hoehn acknowledged he was angry over a dispute with the neighbors and knew his actions would cause his neighbors to feel intimidated and be afraid," the Justice Department said, according to an Indianapolis-area ABC affiliate.

FBI agents asked Hoehn how he thought his neighbor would react to the displays. "I don’t care. I wanted to piss him off. I wanted to make him miserable," Hoehn responded, according to the complaint.

The Justice Department has not yet made hate crime statistics for 2020 available, but has reported several this year, according to CNN.