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We write to you today as representatives of the Harriet Tubman Center for Justice and Peace, the Harriet Tubman Boosters and Celebrate! Diverse Auburn. Our organizations exist in part to challenge intentional and incipient injustice due to race or other social characteristics, to stand for inclusion, and to celebrate diversity in all of its forms in and around Cayuga County.

We, as well as the members of our organizations, are deeply concerned about the recent incident at the home of Jeff Richardson, a black man, and Lisa Bachman in Owasco. According to the police report, on Sunday, Nov. 5, Eric Simmons and his son, who are white, drove into the family’s driveway, posted a large sign with the words “GET OUT” in the yard, brandished a shotgun at the couple, and fired a round before leaving in a vehicle. We are monitoring this case in collaboration with the local chapter of the NAACP and the Auburn Human Rights Commission and are aware of the ongoing communications between the leadership of those organizations and Sheriff Gould regarding the preliminary investigation.

Although it is our understanding that no hate crime charges have been filed at this time, we believe that the facts of this case as set out in the police report warrant a thorough investigation into the possibility that a hate crime was committed. We respectfully request that legal hate crime criteria be thoroughly reviewed with respect to this matter and appropriate charges filed.

We encourage law enforcement and/or the district attorney’s office to connect with colleagues in Ithaca and Oswego regarding recent incidents in those communities which warranted investigation into possible hate crimes. In Oswego, the investigation was conducted in consultation with the New York State Police Hate Crimes Unit and we encourage such consultation in this case if possible.

We are deeply concerned about how this incident and the way it is handled by our law enforcement and justice departments reflect on our community. Most importantly, we are concerned about the impact of this violation on the safety and security of Jeff Richardson, Lisa Bachman and their son, as well as the safety and security of others who may feel similarly targeted.

We will continue to monitor the handling of this situation closely and will do so through its conclusion. It is our hope that the law enforcement and judicial systems understand the severity of this matter and prosecute it to the fullest extent of the law. We intend to remain public about our concerns until a fair solution is made on behalf of a family who was terrorized in their own home while their infant slept.

William E. Berry Jr. is chair of the Harriet Tubman Center for Justice and Peace, Laurel Ullyette is president of Harriet Tubman Boosters, Angela Daddabbo is a founding member of Celebrate! Diverse Auburn, and Debra Rose Brillati is a member of Celebrate! Diverse Auburn.