By Calvin Palmer
Within a week of the historic election of Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States comes a stark reminder of America’s ignominious past.
An Oklahoma woman who was recruited over the Internet to take part in a Ku Klux Klan initiation in Louisiana was shot and killed after the ritual went awry.
Yesterday, eight people were being held in jail in connection with the woman’s death. Local Klan leader Raymond “Chuck” Foster is charged with second-degree murder. Seven other members have been charged with helping to conceal the crime.
“The IQ level of this group is not impressive, to be kind,” said St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain.
The woman, whose identity has not been released, is believed to be from the Tulsa area. She was supposed to be initiated near the village of Sun, Louisiana, and then return to her home state to find other members for the white supremacist group.
Strain said the group’s leader Foster, 44, shot and killed the woman with a .40 caliber handgun Sunday night after a fight broke out when she asked to be taken back to town. Foster is being held without bail.
Seven others – five men and two women aged between 20 and 30 – were charged with obstruction of justice and were held on $500,000 bail bond at the St. Tammany Parish jail. They are Shane Foster, 20; Frank Stafford, 21; Timothy Michael Watkins, 30; Alicia M. Watkins, 23; Andrew Yates, 20; Random Hines, 27; and Danielle Jones, 23.
All eight of the suspects live in the neighboring Washington Parish in the Bogalusa area.
Police say some of the suspects tried to destroy evidence by burning the woman’s belongings along with other items. They also dug the bullet out of the woman and dumped her body under some brush by a road in Sun.
At the campsite, investigators found weapons, several flags and Klan robes some emblazoned with patches that read “KKK Life Member” or “KKK Security Enforcement.”
Strain said the woman arrived in Slidell, Louisiana, last week and was met by two people connected with the Klan group and taken to the campsite on the banks of the Pearl River, about 60 miles north of New Orleans.
Capt. George Bonnett, a spokesman for the sheriff’s department, said: “We haven’t completely sorted out if they finished the initiation.” He added that he wasn’t aware of any other KKK-related cases during the three years he has been with the department.
The group’s members called themselves the “Dixie Brotherhood,” which appears to be a small loosely organized group of people, according to Mark Pitcavage, the director of investigative research for the Anti-Defamation League.
“This is not what I would call an established Klan group,” he said. “The Klan has a pretty high association with violence. Some of these guys are just crooks, sociopaths.”
The sheriff allayed public fears. “I can’t imagine anyone feeling endangered or at risk by any one of these kooks,” Strain said.
[Based on reports by the Associated Press and Tulsa World.]