'Black Lives Matter' sign lit on fire in Rochester woman's front yard

Police are investigating it as a hate crime.

Police are looking for the person who lit a "Black Lives Matter" sign on fire in a front yard near the Twin Cities earlier this week.

The Rochester Police Department got a call about the fire around 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Captain John Sherwin told GoMN. 

A neighbor had seen an "unknown object" burning in a yard in the 900 block of 7th Avenue SW. Sherwin said when officers arrived, they discovered that it was a small "Black Lives Matter" yard sign.

Now the department is looking for the person responsible for the burning, which is being investigated as a bias (aka hate) crime. 

Sherwin said the department doesn't have any suspects at this time. Anyone with information can leave an anonymous tip by calling 507-328-6760 (it's a recorded line that won't be answered).

The victim speaks out

The woman who lives at the home, Stephanie Heim, told WCCO she wants to talk to the culprit and come to an understanding.

“I’d invite that person to knock on my door and have a cup of coffee with me and have a conversation because, honestly, I went to bed feeling a little fearful on Wednesday night,” Heim said in an interview with the station. “But I recognize that continuing to foster fear is not going to get us anywhere and that we really, really need to talk with one another.”

Heim told WCCO the sign was in her yard for less than a couple weeks. She has replaced it with one that reads “Love Your Neighbor.”

Hate crimes

The FBI defines hate crimes as an offense motivated (whether in whole or just in part) by a type of bias: either someone's race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.

In a 2016 crime summary, Minnesota officials noted a rise in bias-motivated crimes. There were 122 reported last year, compared to 96 in 2015. 

That most recent figure though is lower than the total reported in 2013 (154) and and 2012 (175).

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