116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - Police are investigating as a hate crime a racial slur discovered early Tuesday spray painted on a vacant rental house that has been the source of neighborhood complaints over the last year.
Cedar Rapids police received a call about 7:30 a.m. that a racial epithet was painted in yellow across the front of 2307 Bever Ave. SE.
'I'm disgusted and furious that someone would do this,” Chief Wayne Jerman told The Gazette. 'We are handling this as a hate crime. We are talking to all the neighbors and exploring every lead at this point. We have investigators working the case.”
The department said it would work with the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office as it investigates to see whether federal hate crime statutes apply.
The Gazette published an article Sunday about violence including drive-by shootings and a pipe bomb stemming from this house, which the city last year had declared a nuisance property. The city later suspended the rental permissions for this and three other properties owned by Charles Davisson, 58, of Cedar Rapids, listed under the name of Property Holders LTD.
Police said tenants at 2307 Bever Ave. SE moved out sometime in January. Authorities believe some of the people associated with the house in the past were affiliated with a gang.
Amanda Grieder, public safety program manager with Safe CR, which addresses nuisance and building code violations, said she contacted Property Holders to make sure it was aware of the tagging incident and if the property manager, Michael White, needed assistance in removing the spray paint.
Grieder also reached out to some neighborhood associations to ask if they could help, but she later found it had been removed by White and others.
About a dozen people Tuesday morning helped remove the painted slur, including Eric Gutschmidt, owner of Gutschmidt Properties, and Turè Morrow, founder of We Are CR.
'There were more hands than there were paintbrushes,” Gutschmidt said. 'Racism is trash and that's unacceptable to exist and let that stand for any length of time.”
Morrow said the slur's message that Black people were not welcome in the neighborhood is a 'reflection of redlining” in the community. Redlining is the systematic denial of services by governments and businesses to residents of specific neighborhoods.
Black populations in seven Iowa cities - Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Dubuque, Davenport, Des Moines and Waterloo - were subject to redline mapping, according to the African American Museum of Iowa, which in September is opening an exhibit on Redlining in Iowa.
'Obviously whoever did it expects Black (people) to not live in that area,” said Morrow, a Black man who lives three blocks from the house. 'It's disappointing to know after everything we've been through we still have to deal with stuff like that here in Cedar Rapids.”
Sophia Joseph, who also lives three blocks away and is Morrow's fiancee, said it's 'comforting” to live in a neighborhood where people post 'Black Lives Matter” signs, but wonders if they are 'really willing to take the risk that comes along with saying Black Lives Matter.”
She has two biracial children, an 8-year old girl and a 4-year old boy.
'I never want my children to feel unwelcome or unsafe,” Joseph said. 'I understand this was a problem property, but nobody wants to feel unsafe in their home. There is never a justification or excuse to ever use that kind of hate language to intimidate children in that neighborhood, to basically put on that house ‘Don't move Black people into this neighborhood.'”
A neighbor told The Gazette she provided video from her surveillance camera to police Tuesday. The video, she said, showed a black vehicle at 5:10 a.m. pulling up behind 2307 Bever Ave. SE and a man getting out. The car lights are illuminated toward the camera, so it was difficult to see where the man went. The car stayed until 5:17 a.m., the neighbor said.
Scott McWherter, who lives next door, said Tuesday he wasn't aware of the tagging until police contacted him and were interested in getting any video from his surveillance camera to see if it held any clues. McWherter said his camera didn't pick up anything from the incident.
His black lab was barking at something about 5:20 a.m., but McWherter said he didn't see or hear anything suspicious at the house.
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