Two Men Charged with Cross Burning in California

April 06, 2007

A criminal complaint was filed on April 2 in Sacramento Federal Court against two men who have admitted to burning a five-foot cross in front of the home of a priest because he is Black.

Kevin William Ridenour, 21, and Nicholas Edward Craig, 18, are charged with conspiracy against civil rights, interference with housing rights because of a person's race, and use of fire to commit a felony. The two men live at the same address in Westwood in Lassen County, California.

According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in Westwood is half a block from the defendants' home, with the priest, a native of Rwanda, residing in the attached rectory.  

On March 23 a janitor at a nearby school found the charred cross in the driveway of the rectory and later identified Ridenour and Craig as the men he witnessed building a wooden cross in a nearby alley.

According to the affidavit, Craig told the Lassen County deputies that he helped Ridenour construct the cross, drag it to the rectory, and pour the gasoline on it, at which point Ridenour set it aflame. Later, Craig allegedly told a deputy that "Ridenour does not like Black people," and that he had heard Ridenour use vulgarity and a racial slur in reference to African-Americans.

The affidavit further states that Craig claims the men got the idea for the cross burning from old movies showing the Ku Klux Klan using the method to intimidate African-Americans. Craig is quoted as saying that he and Ridenour "burned the cross to scare the black priest."

The affidavit states that Ridenour told deputies he is a member of the racist skinhead group the Peckerwoods.

Lassen County authorities have also charged the two men under California law with cross-burning, vandalism to a church, conspiracy and involvement in a hate crime.

The Assistant U. S. Attorney handling the case has said that local charges may be dismissed in order to obtain one single action against the pair in federal court.