Cross burning at black church may prompt hate crime charges

OKLAHOMA CITY Thu Jun 30, 2011 8:07pm EDT

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OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Authorities recommended on Thursday that felony hate crime and arson charges be pursued against an 18-year-old man and two juvenile boys who admitted burning a cross outside a predominantly black church in Sepulpa, Oklahoma.

It will be up to the Creek County District Attorney's Office to decide how to proceed against the suspects, an 18-year-old man who lives across the street from the church and two juvenile boys.

The three suspects, all white, have cooperated with local, state and FBI investigators. No formal charges have been filed and the three are not incarcerated, said Lt. Charles Redfern of the Creek County Sheriff's Department.

"They were bored and it was something to do. That's what the adult said," Redfern said of the suspects. "They did say they wish they hadn't done it."

The two juveniles were interviewed in the presence of their parents, he said. Their ages were not disclosed.

The cross, propped against a chain link fence outside St. Johns Baptist Church before it was set ablaze, was actually half of a wooden waterbed frame, Redfern said.

Investigators found the other half of the waterbed frame in a trash pile at a mobile home park across the street from the church and eventually followed leads from residents and tipsters to the three suspects, he said.

Sepulpa is west of Tulsa.

(Editing by Karen Brooks and Greg McCune)

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