Lawrence man accused of burning cross in his yard during dispute with neighbor faces federal hate crime charge


INDIANAPOLIS– A Lawrence man faces a federal hate crime charge for allegedly making threats, intimidating and interfering with his Black neighbor.

Shepard Hoehn, 50, is accused of making the threats “because of the neighbor’s race and because of his use and enjoyment of his property,” according to United States Attorney Josh Minkler. He also faces two counts of unlawfully possessing firearms.

The U.S. Department of Justice alleges Hoehn “created and displayed a swastika on a fence facing the man’s property; placed and burned a cross above the fence line facing the man’s property; created and displayed a large sign next to the swastika containing a variety of anti-Black racial slurs; visibly displayed a machete near the sign; and loudly played the song “Dixie” on repeat.”

The Lawrence Police Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated the case and say Hoehn acknowledged he was angry over a dispute with the neighbor and “knew his actions would case his neighbors to feel intimidated and be afraid.”

Search warrants were served at Hoehn’s residence. During the search, authorities say they found several firearms and drug paraphernalia. It was also discovered that Hoehn was a fugitive in a Missouri case, which means federal law barred him from possessing guns.

“Although the First Amendment protects hateful, ignorant and morally repugnant beliefs and speech, it does not protect those who choose to take criminal actions based on those beliefs,” said Minkler. “This office will continue to prosecute federal hate crimes to the fullest extent of the law.”

Hoehn faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each of the three charges.

“The FBI takes allegations of civil rights violations very seriously and will not tolerate harassment and intimidation directed at individuals because of their race, sexual identity or religious beliefs,” said Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan, FBI Indianapolis. “Such incidents represent not just an attack on an individual, but also on the victim’s community, and are intended to create fear. The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to work to identify those committing these acts to ensure the rights of all Americans are protected.”

The Department of Justice urges anyone who may have been a victim of a civil rights violation to report it by visiting the Civil Rights Reporting Portal. Those who believe they are a victim of a criminal violation of their civil rights can contact their local FBI office.

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