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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I don’t get how these 4 think they’re white. They all look like racially mixed individuals to me.

They look like typical northern hemisphere human beings to me I don’t know enough about racial purity indicators to speculate about it.

My, how Police Chief Annibali’s recollection of the truth of this event changed between the day after the cross burning occurred and 7/22/2011:

FROM THE DAY AFTER CROSS BURNING OCCURRED (described in “original” 7/22/2011 article)::

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

…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….

…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….”

STATEMENT FROM THE “update” 7/22/2011 ARTICLE:

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

Very well stated Mary Malone!

To quote The King:

Thank you. Thank you very much.

I pondered this article and subsequent postings when I went to bed last nite. How can we, as people, have this much ugliness in us? How can we take such action and allow this kind of statement to be okay in our own minds, to do to someone? It is troubling in volumes how much “hate” and discord we have as a society. Everyone accuses others of pitiful things that end up in litigation for as much money as they can hope to get; people NOT caring about others in matters that absolutely make us humans. We don’t only NOT love our neighbors now, we SUSPECT them of criminal activities; even hate them. Sadly, some of the people who are our neighbors are worthy of the criminal title; but there have always been those who don’t get it and push those envelopes to imprisonment in various ways. I believe those persons will be punished in a very ulitmate way. Karma is not kind.

Today, there is so much anger in our nation on all levels; political, religious, society itself is enraged and “pacing” back and forth in animosity. Walk out onto the streets of Anytown, USA and you can literally feel the fury like the purring of a cat on your lap. Read the posts in any newspaper. What have we become? More importantly, looking at all of this, what WILL become of us? WE and we alone, each one of us here, are solely responsible for 100% of our actions, our words, our results. I don’t want the stress of having to keep being negative and angered by my society. I want to encourage trust, kindness, and faith in my neighbor to flourish. I want the kind of “do unto others” kinda life. But how do I change my participation in this kind of “societal discord”??

I myself have been guilty of feeding the “fury” in some of my posts. I, frankly, love to be right (or walk away THINKING I am!). I am an Irish Catholic redhead who grew up in Atascadero and am a successful woman in business. I am proud of every one of my accomplishments in my 50 years of life; but I am not proud of every word I have typed in these posts and I wanted to take a moment to state this to you all: I am using this article as my “wake up call”. I am making a stand. I will not become pulled into the world of hate, such as demonstrated in the actions of those persons who committed this crime against innocent people residing in the home and the far reaching implications of their actions. Snicker if you must, but I am a seriously concerned citizen and all I can do is my part in the cleansing and attempt to curtail MY actions. Won’t you join me? Together, we MUST stop this downward spiral for all of our sakes. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Blessings to you all…

Of course you are right. So am I. And so is everybody else. We are often wrong as well. There is no absolute “right” or “wrong” written on some stone temple somewhere which has any more relevance than the right or wrong you feel in your heart. But there is ignorance, and there is mindfulness. If we strive to be mindful and pay attention, then we can learn to trust our hearts. If we bask in ignorance, in self-centeredness, and don’t trust our hearts, then we end up like these four pitiful souls.

Me…wrong???? LOL! Every single day. I am embracing my “wrongness”.

That’s the spirit, Danika! Become ONE with your wrongeness!


Where does one start?

The chicken or the egg or both?

Its all over the world!

It’s that 1000th mile journey saying…beginning with a single step (person). Many people are waking up. We absolutely must.

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

During the life of any heart this line keeps changing place; sometimes it is squeezed one way by exuberant evil and sometimes it shifts to allow enough space for good to flourish. One and the same human being is, at various ages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being. At times he is close to being a devil, at times to sainthood. But his name doesn’t change, and to that name we ascribe the whole lot, good and evil.

Socrates taught us: “Know thyself.”

Confronted by the pit into which we are about to toss those who have done us harm, we halt, stricken dumb: it is after all only because of the way things worked out that they were the executioners and we weren’t…

From good to evil is one quaver, says the proverb.

And correspondingly, from evil to good.

— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

You’ve been getting a bit heavy (AKA deep) lately Zap, I’m starting to worry about you.

I really like Danika’s comment it gets right to the heart, that quote came from this discussion at one of my favorite linkylurky places.

I’m just giving you a hard time. I also liked Danika’s post as well as your quote.

Danika, you’ve been on a roll this week. Can you believe that we’ve agreed on 3 posts in one week? I don’t think we’ve agreed on 3 posts in a year.

You know, TQ, that actually makes me smile. I am marking this day on the calendar. Perhaps someday we will meet and share a meal while I can still afford not to eat dog food…….. Could happen…!! Take care.


This is an excellent composite.

When I see these human phenomena, I think of the Serenity Prayer.

Occasionally I hear and read good news that some have changed their path and found peace in their lives.

I was once told by a person who believes that some were born or incarnated with an affinity for or evil nature (The chicken or the egg perspective) and should never be release from incarceration.

Acting against all chance for human beings to improve and develop their lives (besides poverty) is street drugs.

Thanks for the homily. However, the amount of hatred, rage, and vituperation directed toward Kahn and his loathsome cohorts heartens me. I would be disturbed if people said kind things about them. It is not wrong to express contempt toward the contemptible. The fact that no one on this blog has tried to defend these scum makes me appreciate what a great community we live in.

Heartened by hatred, rage, and cituperation directed toward anyone might be a very big load. Yours to carry. Mine to refuse.

We make our community. How we tend to it makes it worthy of appreciation.

Rage and hatred are emotional reactions to events or other stimuli.

They are just normal human reactions. Each of us interprets them differently.

I, also, am heartened when I hear anger and rage expressed over heinous acts. Sitting there passively like ninnies may sound good at temple, but there is always the danger that you can end up like the Democratic Party who, for two decades, has played the doormat for Republican aggression.

Danika, I believe you’re on to something here with this post, and I’m so thankful you wrote it. Thank you for your frank honesty and a commitment to being part of the solution, rather than part of the problem – in any form.

When I first laid eyes on this article, I scanned it quick, saw the first photo and thought, “what a dumbass” among other things. That thought process was quickly brought to a halt by a recollection of scripture. Saul, the future apostle Paul, referred to his former self as the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). A former tormentor of Christians, God brought upon Saul a heavy conviction, inquiring, “why do you persecute me?” Rendering Paul temporarily blind, his wake-up call and subsequent day-in, day-out fervent devotion to the Lord targeted him for brutal beatings from the haters, imprisonment and his own eventual horrific death. Sensing his forthcoming demise, he wrote: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; end not to me only, but unto them also that love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8). How amazingly one’s life can turn, from good to bad…or from bad to one’s best. More importantly, how many of us can look death in the eye and declare “I have kept the faith” in like confidence?

I say all this because I was so quick to entirely reject these folks. Granted, they have committed horrible acts and have consequences to bear for them. No argument there. Still, my knee-jerk reaction was to write them off. How often do I do that, I wonder? The truth of the matter is…life ain’t over till it’s over. If a self-described “chief of sinners” can be redeemed to walk amongst Christ due to His saving work on the cross, so can these cross burners – and so can I.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

You are welcome, Think. Epiphany is a wonderous thing. Mine happened, I shared, and am happy to see it rang true for some others. My grandfather always said: “the corn doesn’t ever get so tall that it doesn’t fall over from under it’s own weight.” IMO, we are falling over with our swift loss of humanity. We need to fix what’s broke and take care of each other. We are on a big old rock in the middle of a vast universe with no one to fix us for us. What better time to start than now?

I would rather be part of the solution than the actual problem, hands down.

I couldn’t agree more, Danika, with the exception that there is one able and willing to fix us. My pastor often says that Jesus isn’t “a crutch…He’s the ambulance!” Cross burning is heinous for reasons beyond racism and hatred. By its very nature, it insults the sacrifice made by the One who was ransomed for man’s transgressions. I don’t know that even Christ himself is offended by it, but we should be.

As for Mary’s commentary about passionately addressing society’s atrocities (paraphrased), I agree with that, too! Jesus himself was no wimp. Right after the passage about Jesus changing the water into wine at the wedding feast in John 2, Jesus fashioned a whip before he put it to good use. (Can you imagine the onlookers, watching him methodically braid those leather straps?) The good Lord chased people out of the neighborhood temple who were much more interested in making a buck than observing the coming Passover. He called the not-so-holy church folk a “brood of vipers” (not all that far from “you S.O.B’s” in today’s vernacular). Jesus also went on quite the rant in Matthew 23, calling out church leadership for hypocrisy and pridefulness. Notice that the Lord’s intense anger always burned hottest when it came to those who professed to be righteous Christians – not the unbelievers.

In fact, God’s value of justice is written all throughout scripture. Psalm 89:14 states “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your (God’s) throne” Psalm 103:6 states, “…the Lord works justice and righteousness for all the oppressed.” Though Romans 12 instructs his followers in the ways of humility, self-sacrifice, and faithful service, there’s no mistaking God’s inherent promise to deal with those who wrong another.

The concept of justice was one thing he has established on earth early on to bring order. But vengeance was quite another that he would himself dispense. Again in Romans 12, Jesus explains it in context by saying, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Then Jesus brings it all into perspective at the conclusion of Romans 12 with the concept of Grace balancing everything out. He adds, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” This New Testament teaching is neither constrained to ancient behavior or even defined in today’s terms as a Democratic or Republican act. Rather, justice is a part of God’s very nature, as is grace. If the scale be tipped, it would appear that Grace is the winner of the two.

For all of his warnings in the Book of James, the apostle James (arguably known as the most strict and bluntly spoken of all disciples), instructed believers this way in the 2nd chapter: “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

So I look at this cross-burning incident and see more than a group of haters who are a scourge to society. I see an opportunity to examine the way we respond. I’m not even talking about orderly justice as a consequence of their actions, but the hatred that can so easily take root in our own hearts if we aren’t careful. We’re all made of the same stuff, capable of awful things – whether by degree or the heat of passion. Prison cells are lined with people who never thought *they* would ever be sent there.

Question is, how much are we hating their actions versus having hate of one another? God hates sin, yet Jesus willingly died between two of them to ransom the world from it (Matthew 18:12-14 and 2 Peter 3).

As I get older, I have far more questions than I do answers. Billy Graham has often preached the simple message that “there’s always hope.” Might this mean there’s hope for the seemingly worst of us? Billy has seen a lot transpire in his time, both good and bad. No matter how heinous the acts of people become and how maddening they are, I’m still inclined to take him at his word and continue to pray for redemption of what’s left of this life unto Heaven – for cross burners, believers and Pharisees of the world.

I appreciate where you are coming from, but just want to say:

1. Words are simply words. The value they have are up to the one interpreting their meaning.

2. Some subjects need to be passionately addressed. Issues like the cross-burning and the 90 people killed in Denmark Friday need to be addressed with the emotion that each person feels about them.

When something heinous is done, many people are outraged. If that outrage is not expressed, the true depth of the emotion the acts triggered are not discerned and, therefore, may be more easily dismissed as “not that important.”

Just my opinion…your mileage may vary.

Danika, I agree with most of your statements, and my original quote above is what I would say to you. You have to live, in order to win the argument. So, I guess the person we are speaking to about the issue of race and prejudice, “determines” to some extent, how we proceed:

“…I wanted to take a moment to state this to you all: I am using this article as my ‘wake up call’. I am making a stand. I will not become pulled into the world of hate, such as demonstrated in the actions of those persons who committed this crime against innocent people residing in the home, and the far reaching implications of their actions…Together, we MUST stop this downward spiral for all our sakes.”

I think, if the people who committed this act could read that statement, it would actually begin some discourse, even with them. It is righteous anger, peacefully delivered in a controlled and coherent way. It leaves the door open for a response. That was very cool writing, Danika. This is the tone and conversation I would like to use as a model to remember when I am afraid or angry. Thanks.

If the March incident occurred at the same address where the suspect’s father was killed by Deputies, then the Hate Crime charge against the family will probably be dropped, and changed to malicious mischief and disturbing the peace.

I’m not convinced that this one isn’t more than just loosely organized idiocy. Are we to believe these mental midgets actually planned a KKK style cross burning? A lot more needs to be disclosed.

Sad, but the stupid story put up by the dummies has weight, and nowhere in the article does it connect the victim with the perpetrators.

You would think that the arresting agencies would be more forthcoming.

Holy Mackrel, Check out the head lines in the Trib.

“The March incident occurred at the same address where one suspect’s father was killed by deputies”

Side_Show_Bob and Citizens were RIGHT!! What a twist of events.

Holy Mackrel, it’s really late, Good Night.

Cindy the father was shot 19 years ago why a memorial now after 19 years? He had 19 years to memorialize his father. Why on March 18 neither a date of death nor birthday etc. It appears you and side show bob have formed your opinion of a memorial well. Side show bob wants to know if there was a connection with the victim IF THERE WAS NOT THEY WOULD NOT BE CHARGED WITH THE HATE CRIME ENGHANCEMENT. They would only be charged ith stealing the cross and burning it …the fact that his father was shot on the property 19 years ago …why was the cross not burned on that yard ? Rather than pulled past 25 foot bushes and placed in an opening THE ONLY OPENING next to the childs room? Why was the cross attempted to be placed in the victim yard first but could not be this was not the yard his dad was shot in so it was dragged directly to the bedroom window of the house his father was NOT shot in. Why was evidence left in the victims yard ??? rather than the yard he was shot in? I think before you post your opinions you should know the facts first.

Maybe before you start attacking people for their opinions because they don’t have the “facts’ you should bring those “facts” forward.

You ask a lot of valid questions, why aren’t you asking them of the publisher?

And just because someone is charged with a crime does not make it a “fact” that said crime was committed.

He has been in prison, on and off after his fathers suicide by cop. He didn’t have an idea that he was going to memorialize his dad and then go looking for a cross, he saw the BIG CROSS and then he got the idea, that is your answer to the “why now”. He wasn’t going to put flowers on it like an average Joe does, he isn’t an average Joe, he is a prison hardened skin head. Burning a cross to a skin head is what a cross is made for.

“This is for you dad and if you’re burning in hell, the devil will reward you tonight”

“This is in memory of the night the AGPD Pigs murdered my dad”.

No doubt his young followers thought it sounded pretty cool. That’s all it was as far as he was concerned until he read the papers. Think about it, this guy has been in prison where he joined a skin head group and got a big tattoo to prove it. If he was going to target a black on the outside, do you think he would target a single white mother with a mixed race daughter? Where is the honor in that? He would have targeted a black man. It just so happens that a girl with mixed race blood lived where his father was killed. If you believe anything else then you’re just buying into the hype that the mother created when she hired an attorney and went to the LA Times before the embers were even cold.

Cindy, IMO the reason Kahn didn’t attack a black man is the same reason Anders Behring Breivik.used a bomb attack in Oslo, and then assault of an island where minor children were on a camping event to make his point: they are both cowards.

This is just my experience with men in general….if a cross was burned in a vacant lot next to a house that had an adult male in it, compared to a house that had a woman and a teenager in it, the adult male would be far more likely to bust the front door off the hook as he went out to confront them.

Just food for thought…

Fat chance Mary, he has a swat sticker tattooed on the back of his head (a big one) and he keeps his head shaved to be certain that everyone sees it. He obviously isn’t afraid to take on confrontation wherever or from whom ever he might find it. He is a bad dude. There is no honor in prison for having attacked a white woman with a mixed race daughter. I recall the first time that you appeared here at CCN and it was when this incident arose. Apart from this incident you and I have always agreed, on this issue we will have to agree to disagree.

My husband, a marriage and family therapist, worked with angry, violent people (usually men) for over a decade.

He found that the loud-mouthed, threatening men, who were always saying they were going to kick someone’s kiester or whatever, who spent so much effort trying to threaten and intimidate others, especially if they always seemed to hang out with fellow losers in a group–they were, in reality, very timid and frightened guys. They were, of course, capable of causing harm, but usually only when they were in a group, and you always had an idea what was coming before it happened.

My husband said it is often the quiet, soft-spoken, loner guys who you should be keeping an eye on.

Do you belong to the Department of Redundancy Department?

Hats off to all of the historians here with a memory for such detail! I am tucking away this information in my voluminous journal, and I thank you all for the education.

Good night to all.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

Kahn looks like the archetypal aryan bigot skin-head.

And meth heads.

Bravo, they caught these sickos.

Looks like a long family history of drugs and violence…

I guess it is very lucky that only a cross was burned and not a little girl? Hope they go away for a long time…

Three strikes maybe?

I was wondering about that. Seems like this guy must have reached his three strikes.