Jonathan and Sol Whyte, holding a friend's child, talk about finding a cross and the letters 'KKK' burned into their lawn late Monday. - Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell

Police seek public's help after 'KKK' appears on home's lawn

Investigators working on an intimidation case in which someone scorched a cross and the letters "KKK" into the grass at a home in the 500 block of Benson Street near Union Park have collected evidence from the yard, but are still hoping to get tips from the public.

Sol Whyte, who lives at the targeted home with her husband, Jonathan, who is originally from Jamaica, and their two daughters, heard the crackle of flames shortly after 11 p.m. Monday and ran outside to see the shocking message on her lawn.

She called police. Neighbors helped stomp out the flames and douse them with water from a garden hose and chased three young men who had been seen in the street and the Whytes' yard, she said.

The three, described as thin, white men in their late teens or early 20s, wearing jeans and hooded sweatshirts, ran toward Union Park and disappeared.

Officers found an altered firework on the lawn and summoned the Oregon State Police bomb squad.

Medford police Lt. Tim Doney said evidence from the has been sent to the state crime lab.

"We take this kind of case very seriously," he said, noting that racial intimidation that qualifies as a hate crime is relatively rare in Medford.

The last such case was an attack downtown by two brothers on two black teenagers walking along Riverside Avenue in June.

Sol Whyte suspects that people must have targeted them after seeing Jonathan and the two girls, ages 4 and 2, working and playing in the yard. The family has lived on Benson Street since January.

Doney noted that neighbors had stepped up to help last night, and he hopes more will speak up to help investigators track down the suspects.

Anyone with information can call police at 770-4784.

— Anita Burke

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