A black Anoka resident who three days ago reported the burning of a cross on his lawn was charged Friday with setting the blaze himself in a search for sympathy and money.
Police began to suspect De’Andre June Sr., 47, after learning that he had told inmates at the Anoka County jail last week that he was going to burn a cross in his yard and blame it on his neighbor.
When he was arrested Thursday afternoon on an unrelated Hennepin County felony warrant, June told police that he didn’t know who had burned the shape of a cross into his grass.
By Friday he had been charged in Anoka County District Court with three misdemeanor counts of falsely reporting a crime, disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process.
Julie Swiler of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, which had issued a strong statement Wednesday denouncing the cross burning, said that “when a hate incident is fabricated, it diminishes the serious message that an act of hate harms individuals and causes harm to society.”
It’s hard, she said, when someone takes advantage of an honest desire to help.
Anoka police Capt. Philip Johanson said his office received a number of calls from people offering their support to June and his family. “It’s been moving this week,” he said.
“We really pushed forward with this as a bias crime,” he said. But a canvassing of the neighborhood uncovered no leads or suspects, he said.
June has been convicted of numerous felonies in Minnesota and has served various stretches of prison time since 1993, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Shari Burt.
His crimes have ranged from burglary to motor vehicle theft to fleeing an officer, and his last prison term ended in June 2002, Burt said.
This summer, he was sentenced in Hennepin County for financial fraud involving criminal use of a credit card from his former employer. He was released from the Anoka County jail on Monday after spending a week there in connection with a series of driving violations.
On Wednesday, a few inmates were watching KSTP’s news and saw June on TV talking about the cross burning. According to the complaint, two of them told a deputy that June had spoken to them about pulling just such a stunt.
A third inmate told police that June had “talked about getting sympathy and money from the public with a cross burning since he was a black man.”
Stories about the cross burning appeared in newspapers Thursday. By that afternoon, armed with the inmates’ testimony and the Hennepin County warrant, authorities went to the June house to arrest him.
As his family watched, according to the complaint, June became agitated and began to shout profanities at the officers. At one point, he fell to the floor and said he was having a heart attack, the complaint says.
[Editors Note: KSTP-TV’s (Minneapolis-St. Paul) news story can be viewed here.]