FLORENCE, Ala. — Police in Alabama are investigating after a noose was found hanging outside of a historic African American church this week.
The pastor of St. John Primitive Baptist Church near Florence spotted the noose on Wednesday prior to the weekly Bible study, but didn’t realize what it was until later. The rope was hung on a post adjacent to the steps that lead into the church.
“When I pulled up to the church before service, I looked over and saw something, but I thought it was a vine,” Benny Cole of the small 50-member church told the Times Daily. “When we left, I guess our headlights hit (shined on) it and I could see that it was a rope hanging there. I called a deacon and word has spread from there.”
He called the police the following morning.
The Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office told local television station WKRG that they have alerted the Federal Borough of Investigations (FBI) and are conducting a fingerprint analysis on the rope. Officials are also looking into whether the incident can be prosecuted as terrorism or a hate crime under the law.
“We are not going to tolerate this,” Sheriff Rick Singleton said. “We are going to do all we can to find out who is responsible and when we do, they will be prosecuted to the fullest. This is unacceptable behavior and just a senseless act.”
The church is located at the end of a dead-end road, so officials believe that the act had to have been obviously contemplated by someone who knew that the church was there.
Cole said that the noose has created concern among church members, and he has no idea who would have done such a thing.
“The church has been there a long time and nothing like this has ever happened,” he outlined. “We don’t know who did this or why. But we live in a time of unrest, a time where people do strange things. We’re just praying that the Lord will take care of us.”
“Unfortunately, we are living in a time where people like to say something or do something to keep things stirred up,” he added. “We look to the Bible where we are told to live peacefully among one another. We trust in the good Lord to make that happen.”
The public has likewise decried the crime, with some noting that it could have been committed by a youth as the knot is incorrect.
“There is absolutely no reason for something this vile to have occurred,” one commenter wrote. “Just adds to the racial tensions and suspicions of each other.”