Possible arson, hate crime being investigated in De Kalb

Residents in De Kalb, Texas are concerned about a possible arson and hate crime.
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 1:56 PM CDT
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DE KALB, Texas (KSLA) - A structure at an outdoor rodeo in De Kalb, Texas burned to the ground early Tuesday morning (May 23), and figurines were hung by ropes on the nearby announcer’s stand.

Some residents in the area say someone is trying to stop their Juneteenth celebration, and they want to know who.

“I don’t know what to be done, but something needs to be done,” said Robert Weary, a concerned citizen.

Mayor Lowell Walker says the fire department responded to the scene at 12:35 a.m. Tuesday and put the fire out. He says the fire took place at an outdoor rodeo arena at the snack bar, which burned to the ground.

Mayor Walker says two figurines were found hanging from the announcing booth, which is on the other side of the arena. He contacted the FBI to ask them to investigate. Because of the effigies, he told them he suspected it was a hate crime.

“I guess they call themselves setting a statement, but the situation has got out of hand. They have went too far,” Weary said.

Mayor Walker says the De Kalb police chief is leading the investigation. He has contacted the Texas Rangers as well.

Fire Chief Robby Barett contacted the fire marshal, as well as the state fire marshal, who will conduct an investigation, Mayor Walker told KSLA. He says once the fire marshal confirms it’s arson, they will be able to determine how to move forward with the investigation.

“But I feel bad for the whole community itself because the community now is going to be put on edge,” said Mannie King, another resident.

Residents say they were planning a Juneteenth celebration at the location in question. De Kalb officials say they will ask for state and federal law enforcement agencies to come in to investigate the fire and the hanging effigies that were found.

“I feel like very unsafe. This is not the first time something like this has happened. They never do anything about it, so I’m not sure anything is going to be done,” said Remington Griffin, another resident.

The arena is next to a church that was not damaged in the fire.

“Somebody find out who done it and take care of business, that’s what I hope and let them know this type of thing here is not appreciated and we won’t tolerate it here,” said Weary.