FBI investigates South Carolina couple accused of harassing Black neighbors

Federal investigators are looking into racial discrimination accusations after a South Carolina couple was accused of harassing and stalking their Black neighbors.

On Wednesday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation claimed it carried out “court-authorized law enforcement activity” at a Conway property.

“This action is related to an ongoing criminal civil rights investigation involving allegations of racial discrimination,” FBI special agent in charge of the Columbia division Steve Jensen said in a statement.

“We are working jointly with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as well as our local and state partners, to thoroughly examine this matter, and we’re dedicated to ensuring equality and fairness within our communities,” the attorney general stated.

At this time, no new information about the current inquiry has been disclosed.

The FBI was spotted at the home of a couple detained last month on suspicion of harassing their next-door neighbors.

The pair, both white, Worden Butler, 28, and Alexis Hartnett, 27, reportedly “harassed and stalked the victims with racially motivated words and actions,” according to a police report filed late last month.

FBI investigates South Carolina couple accused of harassing Black neighbors

Butler is accused of yelling racial comments at one of the victims “in reference to her being Black,” according to the police report.

According to the police complaint, Butler and Hartnett allegedly built a cross facing the victims’ home and lit it on fire during Thanksgiving weekend. While responding officers were interviewing the victims, Hartnett allegedly uttered a racist slur directed at them and “continued this behavior even after being advised [by] officers to go back inside her home,” according to the report.

“The victims feel that the suspects are a danger to their safety and the incidents are getting more frequent and threatening,” according to the report.

According to the police report, Butler also allegedly posted on Facebook a picture of the victims’ mailbox with their address on it and wrote, “summoning the devil’s army and I don’t care if they and I both go down in the same boat.”

FBI investigates South Carolina couple accused of harassing Black neighbors

Butler and Hartnett were arrested on Nov. 30 and charged with second-degree harassment, a misdemeanor. Hartnett was also charged with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. They were both released the next day.

ABC News was unable to reach Butler and Hartnett, and their attorney did not respond to a message requesting comment.

Chief Joseph Hil of the Horry County Police Department called the reported acts “appalling and unacceptable.”

“Such hate and harassment will not be tolerated in Horry County,” Hill said last week in a statement.

“The individuals responsible will face consequences for their actions and the harm they have caused the victims and the larger Horry County community.” We will pursue justice to the greatest extent of the law in collaboration with our local and regional allies.”

South Carolina does not have legislation that allows for additional penalties for hate crimes.

According to The Associated Press, a hate crime measure has passed the South Carolina State House but has stalled on the Senate floor for the previous three years.

Following the arrest of the couple, organizations such as the NAACP and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have urged South Carolina to pass a hate crime bill.

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