Arroyo Grande cross burners in custody

July 22, 2011

Jason Kahn

UPDATE: The Arroyo Grande Police Department released the results of its cross burning investigation during a news conference Friday afternoon.

Police say four suspects are in custody including, Orcutt resident Jason Kahn, 36, San Simeon transient Jeremiah Hernandez, 32, William Soto, 20, a transient from Arroyo Grande and Sara Matheny, 24, a San Simeon transient.

Each of the suspects faces charges of arson, cross burning, terrorism, and conspiracy. In addition, they have been charged with a hate crime enhancement while conspiring with others.

Kahn was also charged with witness intimidation.

There is some evidence that the suspects are connected to organized hate groups, police say.

“The motive was simply to terrorize the victim,” said Arroyo Grande Police Chief Steven Annibali.

Police say the arrests were a culmination of a huge effort on behalf of 13 law enforcement agencies, three community organizations and one fire agency.

It took 5,000 staff hours, nearly 50 interviews and nearly 100 field contacts, the chief said.

“The point I want to make is that the Arroyo Grande Police Department has taken this seriously from day one,” Annibali said.



Three men and one woman suspected of burning an 11-foot cross outside the Arroyo Grande bedroom window of an African-American teen in March are scheduled for video arraignments Friday morning.

All four suspects are already incarcerated in San Luis Obispo County Jail for previous alleged crimes.

The suspected leader of the gang of alleged methamphetamine users, Jason Kahn, 36, sports a swastika tattoo on the back of his bald head. Kahn has a long history of arrests for crimes such as resisting arrest, car jacking and possession of stolen property, according to court documents.

On March 18, shortly after midnight, a 19-year-old and a friend who was spending the night heard what sounded like a large truck  along with other vehicles pull up to their home, and then banging that sounded like someone was breaking into their car. The teen went out on the back porch and saw no one.

The girls then went back to the bedroom, turned off the light and saw a large cross fully engulfed in flames directly outside the window. The teen ran, then yelled to her mother, and called the police.

The family, which has lived in the area for 10 years, is not being named to protect their privacy.

Police arrived and put out the flames with the family’s garden hose. They did not interview the mother or daughter that night.

The cross had been stolen from St. John’s Lutheran Church in Arroyo Grande on March 1. The cross, originally hand-made for a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, was bolted down in the church parking lot before it was stolen.

Police originally reported the incident as embers burning in an empty lot. The next morning, when the mother explained her daughter was black and asked why police had not interviewed her or her daughter or taken the group’s shovel as evidence, police started referring to the burning of the cross as a possible hate crime.

The gang originally attempted to place the cross into a hole they had started digging  in the front of the house and failed because of low hanging tree branches. They then dragged the heavy cross to the side of the house.

Later that day, Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara labeled the burning of the cross outside the home of an African American as a possible prank. At a press conference in March city officials said there are no known hate groups in the area.

While some residents insist that there are no white power groups in Arroyo Grande, basic research on the Internet—including Facebook, MySpace, and Stormfront—suggests the skinhead movement enjoys many followers in this South County community.

Hate crime enhancement laws allow for longer sentencing for crimes against someone based on their race.

The gang is claiming that they burned the cross as a memorial to Kahn’s father who died almost two decades ago. In 1994, San Luis Obispo Sheriff deputies went to Ricky Kahn’s home and shot and killed a pit bull that attempted  to attack officers.

Ricky Kahn, an alleged meth addict, rushed out with a knife and was shot by deputies.

The gang has not been linked to the arson outside the Arroyo Grande Police Department that occurred shortly after the cross burning.

CORRECTION: This article has been corrected following the news conference. The suspects have not been linked to the arson outside the Arroyo Grande Police Department that occurred shortly after the cross burning.

Sara Matheny

William Soto

Jeremiah Hernandez








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It’s nice to see trash like this removed from the streets. Adam Hill should be issuing a statement in 3…2…1….

Don’t hold your breath waiting for a statement from Hill on this. There isn’t anything here that will meet his immediate needs with another race baiting program.

Hill is too busy trying to get John Shoals canned from PG&E so he won’t run for 3rd district supe and trying to slander Sam Blakeslee before his run against Lois Capps.

Ah, yes, the Kahn family. Long time residents in the AG area, part of the running crowd (running from the law). Tweekers and petty thieves. Rick Kahn was killed by 5 sheriff’s deputies at his girlfriend’s house on Elm Street around the corner from where I lived. He had murdered a “friend” out on the Mesa. Jason and friends had been robbing houses, and a list of potential hits was found by the Grover Beach police that included my house with a note “has dog”. I thought that Jason went to prison.

These are California natives, wannabee white power people, or maybe Jason joined a white power group while in Prison. I have never understood why California prisons not only allow but practically encourage inmates to join gangs, but here is the result.

Since you know this guy did you suspect him after the cross burning? I may not agree with you very much but I do feel bad that you have live around such scum. Lock your doors.

I don’t live in AG anymore and I know who these people are because my kids went to AG High School with them. Years ago, they were not white power people, and I didn’t know that Jason was out of prison. So, no I hadn’t even thought of these people in years. My immediate neighbors were great people, but I probably knew or knew of most of the people in that area at that time.

Deserved or not, there was too much Mayor bashing going on for me to bother with the reading but I just caught your reference to the “old days” on Elm Street (see my posts above).

I’m starting to think this is becoming a crime of coincidence. I, probably more than others, would like to see this douchenugget removed from society…. permanently, by taking a dirt nap. His past more than qualifies the deed. I’m just starting to think that he may have just picked the wrong place and time to do his dirty burning work.

I look forward to more details.

I don’t buy the coincidence thing. He’s a big time racist, has a swastika on his head and hates people of color. there aren’t that many African Americans around here. It might be symbolism to him as way of paying tribute to his father but he knew there was an African American girl in that house.

Dear Side show: I saw the deputies all in position at the house, waiting with guns out, but didn’t know what was happening until later. The girlfriend lived there with her parents and her son who was the same age as my son.

I remember the house as being one story, but I think that some two story apartments were built on one side.

U live by the scumbag too

His dad died because he was being arrested for murdering Rick Maloney April 8th 1994 with his minor son. I knew him and his dad when I was a kid. And the victim. The minor son shot the victim first and Ricky Kahn killed him. Over drugs. Jason did serve time but was a minor.

OMG, This is getting too weird. It was Rick Maloney, the Maloney’s in AG with the big ranch that used to throw the 3 day 4th of July parties every year? During the 80’s while I lived in Redondo Beach, I used to go to those parties every year with a group of friends that knew the family well. I moved to Northern CA in 1991 and never went to the parties after that. If it’s the same family, this is just stranger than fiction.

Same family! Stanton road!

Ag. My dad was good friends with Maloney.

OMG, my husband also knows that family, he just told me that he used to go to parties out there,,, Kevin Bacon. I wonder why I can’t remember the murder, I need to look it up. It would be an interesting story,,,Karen…

Plus it sounds like a lot of people knew this scummy family.

OMG!!!!!!!!! OMG, Your husband is Kevin Bacon, OMG.. I know Kev, we partied our brains out more than a few times (obviously long before you were married). Tell him “Wild Thing” say’s ,”Where yah been Stud Muffin”, he’ll remember, it’s been a long time but…………

Hahhahhha lol, Had you all going there for a minute, I have no idea if I met him or not, it’s been over 20 years.

Talk about a small world, does Kevin recall a group that used to go up to the ranch from the So Cal Beach area? Brock Spear, Tom Schaffer, Jim O’Callahan, Gil Erwin, Tina Gibson, Dave Copeland, Debbie Kalman and a small, curly haired blond named Cindy (to name a few)?

I’m sure you’re just joking but for anyone that doesn’t know what I meant, I meant the Kevin Bacon effect and the 6 degrees that separate us all. As far as those people, I’ll have to ask him when he comes home,,don’t know.

LOL, I was three sheets to the wind by late last night and I was telling a friend about this story and all the uncanny nuances’. Of course I just had to get on line in that condition to see if anything new had transpired about the Maloney’s.

Yes, I was joking (but took the name Kevin Bacon as literal)) with you and “at the time”, I thought I was very – very – very – funny. I used to do things like that all the time when I was a kid and I obviously still have my moments! I wonder how my old friends would feel about my posting their names in a public forum?

Suddenly, it sounds very film noir.

Bravo!!! Good to know the FBI was on the case. And now we’d like to hear again why the Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara & the Police Chief (as well as many others including: community leaders, churches, schools) were so nonchalant about a hate crime in the community. Bigotry, racism, and hate do not just happen. They are taught and learned at a young age. Red necks & skin/meth heads are not the only ones guilty of stupidity.

Yes. It’s sort of incumbent upon him to make a pronouncement, having installed himself as the racial tolerance police, judge and jury.

Oops. Missed with my post. That was int response to SLORider’s Adam Hill post below.

Yes, I expect Adam Hill, who knows nothing more than how to terrorize a bunch of college freshman taking English composition, to be making a statement. Hill, in his ignorance of life outside the university setting, should have something profound, but utimately meaningless, to say.

The braindead mayor of AG suggested this was a prank. The guy needs to be sent to prision for stupidity as well as corruption.

On one random Saturday, I ran across no less then 4 trucks all flying the confederate flag…most heading out towards the dunes or on Grand. You can argue back and forth on what the symbolism behind that flag was meant to be, but today it is only a symbol of intolerance and hate of any race other than “white”. Now some of these people might have been from out of town, but as I see it Arroyo Grande clearly has some hate group issues bubbling up to the surface.

A few confederate flags on pickup trucks do not a hate group make. You or I may understand how the display of those flags could offend someone; others see it as simply projecting a good-ol-boy “Dukes of Hazard” vibe. I do not think it is proof that “…Arroyo Grande clearly has some hate group issues bubbling up to the surface.”

I agree. I hate that flag and when I see it on these trucks it turns my stomach. But I do understand that most of them are just redneck kids that don’t understand what it represents. It’s too bad that they don’t have parents that smart enough to teach them right from wrong.

I would agree. Most of those punk kids are too clueless to understand what SOME think of the Rebel Flag. They likely ditched history class that day to head out to the dunes and jump their trucks on the tallest of slopes.

You can derive whatever meaning you choose to from someone flying that flag. IMO, it means nothing more than they’re hardcore dune party-goers. I’d rather see that flag flying than dirtbags flying their Mexican Flag as has been seen way more around these parts.

Why is one worse than the other? They both show support for another nation.

The confederate flag shows support for a “nation” that can only be a reality if massive southern treason and revolution occurs, which would greatly harm America.

The Mexican flag–there IS already a Mexico.

Them flying a Mexican flag would be like me flying a Seekriegsflagge und Gösch flag—it’s the flag of the nation where my father was born, and it would be homage to his ancestry, but I would never fly that flag because (and this is just how I look at it) my heart and soul is rooted in America.

Home of the free, I have no problem with people flying flags to celebrate their heritage,,,even if it seems silly to me. Some people feel that it’s important for thier kids to celebrate where they came from. I feel that flying the Southern Cross is worse than just flying a flag from another country because of what it represents. If I fly an Italian flag I’m simply saying yea my family is from Italy, if I fly a racist confederate flag then I’m saying that I’m a racist.

My father was so ashamed of being German, I didn’t know he was German until I was 9 years old.

Mary, because of the exuberant wanton destruction by Sherman some people think the war is not over The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down not settled at all.

These “kids” are old enough to take responsibility for the information to which they are exposed. I am certain–unless they are homeschooled and then there is no knowing what they are taught, and it may contain a good deal of evangelical nonsense they are taugh, because Christian Reconstructionist organizations heavily market the homeschooler crowd–sometime in their K-12 education, they were exposed to the impact of racism and bigotry on our country.

Just because you’re ignorant does not mean you are exempt from being charged with heinous acts of bigotry.

I don’t care what kind of background they had, burning a cross is just fracking plain WRONG. Anyone genetically this side of the baboon on the evolution scale knows that burning a cross (after STEALING it first) is just flat-assed WRONG.

If they don’t yet know it is wrong, I’m sure being senteneced to a prison will teach them all they ever wanted to know about racism and bigotry.

I’ve talked with a few of these redneck kids. The ones that I’ve spoken with really don’t feel that the Confederate flag represents racism. They feel that it’s southern pride thing or a rebel type of thing (which they don’t see as racisim) and they identify with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Kid Rock. I agree that they should know better. I couldn’t convince them that they were wrong, they didn’t feel that it was a racist thing. If someone told me something was offensive like that I would stop using it even if I wasn’t sure if it was offensive. Why needlessly offend others when it’s so simple not to,,,unless they’re Republicans (JK).

Karen, you forgot to mention that the deputies went to Rickey’s house to arrest him for murder and that Jason was not at the scene. He was already in the back of a police car on his way to jail when the deputies went to arrest his dad.

Gordo I’m glad that you filled us in on those details. I was feeling a little sympathetic for a minute wondering if the violent death of Kahn’s father might have something to do with how he turned out. Now that I know the police were there to arrest the father for murder and not to just do a random compliance check or something of that sort, it provides far greater perspective, it’s also good to know that Jason Kahn didn’t see that happen because he would have my pity if he did. I know Jason is a bad guy but I always do feel sorry for criminals that were raised in that sort of an environment, it’s as if they never had a chance. No I’m not making excuses for anybody, they are adults and responsible for their own actions. There are many people who had a bad family life and they took the opposite road.

Jason already witnesses a murder.

Glad they caught these guys but not sure why it took so long…4 months?!

I don’t believe that 4 months is that long for an investigation. My family is involved in something that I don’t want to get into here but they detectives in this case have been investigating it for over a year and my family and friends believe our issue is pretty cut and dry. They move at a snails pace. But if they don’t get all the info they can then the case won’t make it past the DA and if it does get past the DA if there are any mistakes the whole thing could get thrown out. I feel that they moved pretty fast on this.

Adam Hill, Direct your email to

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