Baltimore police are investigating as a hate crime the hanging of a noose from a tree outside the home of a black family new to a Southwest Baltimore neighborhood.
Christie Green, 33, said she was leaving the single-family home at Devonshire and South College roads early yesterday when she spotted the 8-foot rope dangling from a tree.
"I was on my way to work, and just as I stepped off the bottom step of the porch I noticed the noose hanging," Green said. "I walked a few steps more to get a better look at it, then I came back to get [her husband] Darryl, who was still asleep."
The couple examined the noose, then called police around 8 a.m. About 12 officers and a fire engine eventually crowded onto Devonshire Road in front of the Greens' home.
"We think it's malicious," said Lt. Kurt Ellinger of the Southwestern District. "At this point, we don't know if it's somebody that intends harm or just a prank or some type of message, but we regard it very seriously, and that's why there were so many officers there and why we're investigating it so vigorously. We are concerned for their safety, and we don't need that type of crime in that neighborhood or anywhere in the city."
Ellinger said the incident has been classified as a hate crime. The Greens are one of two black families on Devonshire Road, which is less than a quarter of a mile long.
He said the incident is uncharacteristic for Kensington, a community of manicured lawns dotted with flowers and shrubbery.
"It's a fairly quiet neighborhood," Ellinger said. "It's kind of alarming that that would happen there."
'We're not moving'
The Greens, who have a 2-year-old daughter, said they think the rope was intended to scare them from the neighborhood, where they moved in March. "We're not moving," Darryl Green said. "If the message was to scare us to move out, it didn't work. We're not moving."
Some Kensington residents said yesterday they doubted that someone deliberately hung a noose in the Greens' yard. They suggested that the rope might have been a remnant of a child's swing that the previous homeowner had hung from the tree.
"I know the previous owners had a little bucket seat for a kid hanging from the tree, and maybe they just left that rope there," said Debbie Smith, 46, who lives two doors down from the Greens. "I don't know. I've been here four years, and nothing like that never happened. It's not that kind of neighborhood."
Debbie Smith and her husband, Ronald, were the only blacks on Devonshire Road until the Greens moved in.
Bob Robey, 58, who lives across the street from the Greens, said he thought the rope was left there accidentally or was the work of pranksters.
"It doesn't bother me, because I know it's not from here, from inside," said Robey, who has lived on Devonshire Road for 3 1/2 years with his wife, Loretta.
Neighbor Evelyn Byer, who has lived on the street for 16 years, said, "Nothing like that has ever happened. I think it was someone from outside the neighborhood."
Late yesterday, Ellinger said police were trying to find out whether the rope was left by the previous homeowner.
The Greens say it wasn't. "That rope was not there," Christie Green said. "We have a similar swing for our daughter, a bucket swing, and we've been looking for somewhere to hang it. We've been surveying our trees since we moved in. If there were a rope up there, I would have known that it was there, and I probably would have used it myself."
Greg Adams, the real estate agent who helped the Greens find the home, said yesterday that there was no rope in the tree when the family moved in. Efforts to reach the previous homeowner were unsuccessful.
Police said they have no suspects. The Greens said they cannot imagine who the culprit is, but that they hope it's someone from outside Kensington, a community of about 150 homes that Adams estimated sell for $115,000 to $150,000.
"We have no idea who could have done this or who would want to," Darryl Green said. "Is it our next-door neighbor? I don't know. Is it the guy living down the street? I don't know. Is it the guy behind me? I don't know. I should hope it was not someone from the neighborhood."
Monica Lenear, wife of Kensington Improvement Association President Drew Lenear, said yesterday that the incident was disheartening.
"My heart just sank when I heard what happened," she said. "Then, when I heard about the rope, I thought, well, maybe it was left there."
Lenear said that if the noose had been hung up overnight, she doesn't think it was done by someone in the neighborhood.
"We are a very diversified neighborhood," Lenear said. "We welcome anybody. We're very tight-knit. We're going to be very supportive of them and hope the police can solve it."