Cortlandt family finds burning cross on its lawn

An African-American family in Cortlandt thought their lawn was on fire Wednesday night, but the flames turned out to be from a burning cross.

The incident happened in front of Clara and Wesley Artope?s house on Maple Avenue, and police said it may have occurred as the result of a fight that occurred between the family?s son and two Caucasian girls.

According to the Artopes, the fight took place at Hendrick Hudson High School and started as an argument but escalated into shoving. The Artopes said both girls involved in the fight used the n-word towards their son.

Officers sat outside the Artope?s house all night at the request of the family. Police took the cross with them Thursday morning as part of their investigation. All that is left on the ground is charred grass and a hole.

?I felt terrible. I felt dismayed,? Wesley Artope said. ?I felt angered because my children had to see that.?

Police said they are investigating the incident as a hate crime, and that a law enacted last year specifically targets the incident.

?If you light a cross with the intent to annoy, harass anyone based on their race, it is an E-felony,? Captain Robert Meyers of the New York State Police said. Cortlandt officials say racism generally isn?t an issue in their town, and that the area is a diverse community that usually lives in harmony.

?Now I have to explain to a 4-year-old and a 9-year-old who go to Catholic school and pray and see the cross every day that the cross is burning,? Clara Montague-Artope said. ?I can?t make sense of this for my small children.?

Police said they have interviewed the two girls involved in the fight, and are continuing their investigation. So far no arrests have been made.

For more on the cross burning incident, go to channel 612 on your iO digital cable box and select iO Extra.

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