Racial intimidation escalates in Arroyo Grande

August 27, 2011

By KAREN VELIE

As the trial date of four alleged white supremacist draws near, intimidation of a mixed race family in Arroyo Grande has escalated.

On Saturday, the alleged victim of an earlier cross burning discovered someone had spray painted the name of a white supremacist gang and a cross on a wall across from her Elm Street home using a pre-made template. The vandalism faced the site of an earlier cross burning.

On March 18, shortly after midnight, an African American teenage girl heard loud noises coming from her yard. She went outdoors and stood on their back porch, but saw no one.

She then went back to her bedroom, turned off the light and saw an 11-foot cross burst into flames directly outside her window. She yelled to her mother, and called police.

The cross had been stolen from St. John’s Lutheran Church in Arroyo Grande on March 1.

The family, which has lived in the area for 10 years, is not being named to protect their privacy. However, for this article we will refer to the mother as Anna.

Earlier today, Anna left her daughter at home to have breakfast with a friend. She arrived home to see the words “Elm St. Woods” with a the “T” looking like a cross on the wall facing the site of the earlier cross burning.

The “peckerwoods” is the name of a California based skinhead gang, known to trade in methamphetamine. A few decades ago, the abbreviated term “woods” entered California prison slang.

Since the cross burning, the family has been the victim of numerous acts of intimidation including arriving home in the evening to find a truck with several people parked in front of their home. Each time, the truck has sped off as Anna and her daughter pull up to their home.

One alleged affiliate of the gang boldly knocked on their front door a few months ago, an action the gang allegedly used to determine if Anna and her daughter still lived in the Elm Street house, Anna said.

And while two other African Americans moved from the street in the primarily white community within a few months of the cross burning, the victims did not.

Anna has worked for the same local employer for 17 years and has good credit. However, she is currently working from home because of a stroke she suffered about a year ago.

Because of this, Anna will need assistance with the move and is having trouble finding an affordable rental and coming up with a security deposit.

Early on, members of the community vowed to help the family, but no one followed through with their offers, Anna said.

Meanwhile, Anna has moved a large dining cabinet in front of one of the homes larger windows and has also brought a dog into the home. But still, she worries how the stress is affecting her daughter, Anna said.

In July, police arrested Orcutt resident Jason Kahn, 36, San Simeon transient Jeremiah Hernandez, 32, Arroyo Grande transient William Soto, 20, and San Simeon transient Sara Matheny, 24. All four are former Arroyo Grande residents.

Each of the suspects is charged with arson, cross burning, terrorism, conspiracy and hate crime enhancements 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 said.

The four suspects are claiming that they burned the cross as a memorial to Jason 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. The swat team was responding to reports Ricky Kahn was responsible for a man found murdered on the  Nipomo Mesa.

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

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

Nevertheless, several of the suspects’ attorneys have successfully garnered some public support because Soto is Filipino-American, Hernandez is Native American and Hispanic and Kahn is sometimes a Jewish name.

The attorneys said racism shouldn’t be considered a part of the case.

In March, 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 a week after the cross burning, city officials said there were no known hate groups in the area.

Even so, basic research on the Internet—including Facebook, MySpace, and Stormfront—suggests the skinhead movement enjoys many followers in this South County community.

The four cross burning suspects are due back in court on September 7.


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53 Comments

  1. r0y says:

    Am I the only one who finds it ironic that most of the comments here are just HATE towards these people who… hate?

    I *hate* people who hate…

    (-3) 11 Total Votes - 4 up - 7 down
  2. Cindy says:

    I decided to do a little research on this stuff. I think that I was right, this is just a bunch of foolishness and there isn’t any organized skin head or WS group in our area. The peckerwoods are not considered organized , they are simply small little groups, who adopted the name from the blacks. That is what the blacks have been calling the whites for over 50 years (although this is the first I’ve heard of it). Whites in prison pick up that word and some use it outside of prison. There are some motorcycle gangs with special peckerwood tattoo’s but they aren’t organized either. A peckerwood tattoo is a wood pecker, the blacks thought the whites reminded them of woodpeckers but they switched the wood around so we wouldn’t know what they were calling us!

    These guy’s are nothing but a bunch of little punks . As for Jason Kahn (after looking up his criminal record), he went to prison at 19 and he did have something that he needed to hide if he was going to gain any protection from the WS gang’s and that had to do with his middle name. It has been legally changed sometime between his first arrest and 2003. I know why Jason got that tattoo on the back of his head. I’m not saying he is a nice guy, he isn’t but this skin head stuff is over embellished in my opinion.

    (1) 17 Total Votes - 9 up - 8 down
    • zaphod says:

      wood pecker tatoos

      (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
    • Side_Show_Bob says:

      Trivia: The term “Peckerwood” was used in the first “Back to the Future” film.

      (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
      • CA Native says:

        “Peckerwood” was used long before that.

        (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
    • blondehare says:

      Is this Cindyl. CEO board of realtors. trying to clean this up for us.. Please. skin heads have been here for years.. and continue to stay of nothing is done. You Cindy are part of the secret code.. used by agents.

      (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  3. Maxfusion says:

    Boy, I’m confused. Based on the description of the defendants, what is it that defines them as a “white” supremacist group????? I’m thinking there’s some folks involved in this who are somewhat lost in the narrative.

    (8) 10 Total Votes - 9 up - 1 down
    • abigchocoholic says:

      “what is it that defines them as a “white” ”
      ——————–
      Ah, that would be the little white rock that these idiots smoked way too much of.

      The whole article is pathetic, sitting on the front page of the website for days, with innuendos about a local white supremacist group that doesn’t even exist. And then all the comments below from the wanna be drama queens below who love to jump on a band wagon.

      Hey, there was a homicide outside Alex’s in Shell Beach a year ago. Where’s the article about all the rednecks residing in Shell Beach who get drunk and fight to resolve their disputes? Oh, you say one incident doesn’t even come close to defining a community? Exactly.

      (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
      • BigRed says:

        You’re right. This incident doesn’t define my community.

        I get why so many people are upset by the implication that they’re are white supremacists in our town. Who gives a shit if they’re organized or not. I was ready to dismiss the Khan thing for what it was, bored tweekers with time to kill.
        But then theres the people coming to the door, the tagging across the street. Somebody (more burnouts probably) has an axe to grind. I want to be the community that overreacts. Its a good thing to be hypersensitive to this type of shit. I’m not offended by much.. i’m not that guy. But this woman works for a living and has a daughter. This is spooky. Why try to diminish the threat? I’m not going to pretend this is 1950’s Alabama. But I’m a bonafide AG local and think this is unacceptable. Some people on this board act like they work for the tourism council. Yes Virginia, there are racist, junkie, assholes in AG. Let’s deal with it.
        As for the comparison to a barfight at Alex’s… Why not bring up the rape at Elm St Park? I mean nothing bad ever happens here right? Nobody’s trying to define the community. Let’s just rally around one of our own.

        (4) 12 Total Votes - 8 up - 4 down
  4. CA Native says:

    Makes me want to be a person of color just to practice some affirmative self defense.

    (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
  5. live4todaySLO says:

    Unfortunately, there are many white supremacists in San Luis Obispo County. Speaking from personal experience, as bad luck would have it, one of them rented from me for a very short time, and there were tons of problems with him and his ‘buddies’ that would frequent the premises. After he moved out, there was “supreme white boy” graffiti all over the unit and the garage. These guys were in their early 20’s. Their attitude was extremely hateful to all, even white people! They just think they are Supreme and can do what ever they want — if it hurts someone, even better in their mind! They are their own ‘gang’ of ‘supreme white boys’.
    Scary to say the least!

    (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down

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