Two arrested in Westwood on a hate crime following cross burning
“We have substantiated it was a racially motivated hate crime,” said Benny Wallace, the resident deputy in Westwood.
Cross burning is a practice associated with the Ku Klux Klan as a form of intimidation.
Wallace said sheriff deputies from Westwood and Susanville responded to the call on a reported vandalism at the Catholic Church in Westwood and upon arrival found a large, partially burned wooden cross. They determined the incident was more than vandalism.
The deputies located witnesses who confirmed their theory the cross burning was a racially motivated hate crime and identified two suspects.
Shortly after the investigation began Kevin Ridenour, 21, of Westwood was arrested on suspicion of violating a person’s civil rights through threats and intimidation.
A second suspect, Nicholas Craig, 18, also of Westwood was arrested after a short standoff with deputies at his residence. He was taken into custody without incident after voluntarily coming outside.
Ridenour and Craig were transported to the Lassen County jail where they were booked and charged with civil rights violations, civil rights violations with property damage, conspiracy, vandalism, use of an incendiary device and delaying or obstructing peace officers. Bail for each was set at $53,500. The Lassen County District Attorney’s office is reviewing the case and may file additional charges.
Wallace said it was determined the incident took place late at night. The sensor light in the carport had been sprayed with black paint to keep it from activating. Father Bernardin said he was not aware of the activity outside his residence until he was alerted after the fact.
He said it was probably a person who did not have good morals and he had found Westwood to be a community of very nice people. Friday morning, March 23, a teacher from Fletcher Walker Elementary, which is located across the street from the Catholic Church, moved the wooden cross that stood about four feet high away from the carport, Father Bernardin said.
Wallace said the penalty for conspiracy and violating a person’s civil rights using threat and intimidation was substantial state prison time.
Sonja Edwards, a parishioner of the Westwood Catholic Church, said at the Saturday evening mass Father Bernardin asked everyone to pray for the two men who had burned the cross. He also told parishioners coming from Africa he had seen so much worse.
“He is a wonderful man and we love him very much,” said Edwards.
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