A cross burned in the front yard of a Meigs County man’s home sparks an investigation into a possible hate crime. The fire was discovered upon arrival at his home late Thursday, June 29. The 6 to 8 feet tall cross was discovered by Brandon Waters, 23, the gay man apparently targeted with both the cross burning and a offensive message left at the scene.
Meigs County Sheriff Walter Hickman indicated that there is an ongoing investigation into the source of both the message and the blaze.
“There is no person of interest at this time. They didn’t even find this until a couple of days later,” says Hickman. “We really don’t have a lot to go on. We have talked to all the neighbors. Nobody saw anything.”
"There are a lot of people that don’t approve of it," the 23-year-old Waters told The Daily Post-Athenian, referring to being gay. "They are always bashing us. It makes me fearful of what could happen. I just want to live my life," states Waters according to an Associated Press report.
Sandwiched between Rhea and McMinn Counties, Meigs County borders Hamilton County to the south. Meigs County population is 11,657 according to the 2005 estimate by the United States Census Bureau. Decatur, the county’s largest town, is approximately 46 miles from Chattanooga.
The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Bomb and Arson Investigation Section has assigned investigators to look into the incident. This Section is part of the Fire Prevention Division of the Tennessee State Department of Commerce and Insurance. They are charged with protecting Tennesseans through fire prevention, education, codes enforcement, regulation, investigation, and law enforcement. The Bomb and Arson Investigation Section is the investigatory arm of the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Officers are out of office until after the July 4th holiday.
There is a 24-hour arson hotline available for persons wishing to report fire and explosive-related crimes. Cash awards may be offered for information resulting in the arrest and conviction of persons charged with these crimes. You may remain anonymous. Call 1-800-762-3017 to reach the Arson Hot Line.