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Investigation continues into possible anti-gay hate crime in northwest Forsyth

NORTH FORSYTH — The northwestern Forsyth County resident whose home was targeted earlier this week in an apparent anti-gay hate crime told authorities she has had problems with neighborhood teenagers in the past.

But the incident overnight Monday — which included the burning of her rainbow flag on a vehicle and damage to a tree and the front yard — crossed the line, she told Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputies.

The investigation is ongoing. As of Thursday, no one had been arrested or charged and authorities hadn’t released any details about possible suspects.

To ensure her safety, the sheriff’s office is not releasing any additional information about the woman.

According to the FBI, a hate crime is a traditional one, like vandalism, whose motivation is based on beliefs against a race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or ethnicity.

Georgia is one of five states that don’t have a hate crime law, so any suspects charged would not face that specific count.

However, committing a hate crime can change the classification of a traditional crime, said Robin Regan, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, resulting in “stiffer penalties during sentencing.”

Regan has previously said the agency was treating the case as “an obvious hate crime.”

“We treat all hate crimes very seriously in Forsyth County,” he said, “and will not stand for them.”

The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously threw out the state’s previous hate crime law in 2004 on the grounds that it was “unconstitutionally vague.” It had taken effect in 2000.

According to a report obtained by Forsyth County News, the flag was removed from the front porch of the home in a neighborhood off Hurt Bridge Road. It was then ignited on top of a car’s windshield in the driveway sometime between 10:30 p.m. Monday and 9:45 a.m. Tuesday.

Damage was also done to the front lawn when flowers were pulled from the ground, rocks were strewn and the bark stripped off a full-grown peach tree.

Burns marks were found on the road in front of the residence and encircling the vehicle.

The homeowner stated in the report that an American flag usually hung in front of the house, but that on June 26 she had replaced it with a rainbow flag, an international gay pride symbol.

That morning marked the sweeping ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that immediately legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Georgia was not one of the 37 states where it had previously been allowed.

The vandalism caused an estimated $1,640 in damage, according to the report.

Neighbors stated they had heard their dogs barking about 1 a.m. Tuesday, “and they normally only do that when something is going on outside or someone is on their property. However, they stated when they went to check on the dogs, they did not see anything unusual.”