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Lawrence man faces federal hate crime charge for threats toward neighbor

LAWRENCE, Ind. (WISH) — A Lawrence man is facing a federal hate crime charge and firearm offenses after authorities say he intimidated and interfered with his neighbor based on his neighbor’s race.

Shepherd Hoehn, 50, of Lawrence, was charged by criminal complaint for violating the Fair Housing Act and two counts of unlawful firearm possession.

The criminal complaint against Hoehn was unsealed Thursday in federal court.

According to the complaint, Hoehn intimidated and interfered with his Black neighbor on June 18 in the 6400 block of Meadowfield Boulevard in Lawrence. He is accused of creating and displaying a swastika on a fence facing his neighbor’s home and for burning a cross above the same fence. Authorities say he also created and displayed a large sign with racial slurs, placed a machete next to the sign, and played the song “Dixie” loudly on repeat.

“Although the First Amendment protects hateful, ignorant and morally repugnant beliefs and speech, it does not protect those who choose to take criminal actions based on those beliefs,” said U.S. attorney Josh Minkler in a release to News 8. “This office will continue to prosecute federal hate crimes to the fullest extent of the law.”

The FBI and Lawrence Police Department investigated the incident.

Investigators obtained search warrants for Hoehn’s home and found several firearms and drug paraphernalia. Investigators also learned Hoehn was a fugitive from Missouri and he was prohibited from having firearms.

“The FBI takes allegations of civil rights violations very seriously and will not tolerate harassment and intimidation directed at individuals because of their race, sexual identity or religious beliefs,” said Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan, FBI Indianapolis, in a release to News 8. “Such incidents represent not just an attack on an individual, but also on the victim’s community, and are intended to create fear. The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to work to identify those committing these acts to ensure the rights of all Americans are protected.”

If convicted, Hoehn could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each charge.

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