Lamar, SC – Lamar’s Volunteer Mayor Darnell Byrd-McPherson has declared she was the target of a hate crime, even though police determined that the “yellow, sticky substance” she found on her vehicles was the result of pollen - not vandalism.
“We are grateful the person or persons did not try to take our lives but the culprits will be identified and prosecuted,” Byrd-McPherson said in a statement, according to WPDE. “Love conquers hate and my husband and I refuse to be intimidated by those who perpetrated this act of vandalism which I classify as an act of hatred.”
The alleged incident occurred at approximately 10 p.m. on Feb. 7, the mayor told Newsweek.
“My husband went out to the car to get some things out of the garage,” Byrd-McPherson said. “He says, ‘Somebody’s painted your car!’”
A neighbor happened to stop by around the same time, and joined Byrd McPherson and her husband outside, she said.
They began “scraping” the “grainy substance” from the vehicles.
“They started rubbing it, and it was this yellow, sticky substance. So it was like, ‘What is this?’” she told Newsweek.
Byrd-McPherson said that she drove her car the following day, and that she “thought [the substance] was pollen,” WPDE reported.
It was unclear why she changed her mind and determined that the substance was the result of a hate-crime fueled vandalism, but she did note that Lamar has a history of racism.
“During the 70s, crosses were burned in the yard of our home when my Mother was involved with the civil rights movement,” Byrd-McPherson said, according to WPDE. “On this very same corner in this very same front yard!”
The mayor said the alleged vandals did not write any symbols or words on the vehicles, but that the incident “ignited some fear in my spirit,” Newsweek reported.
“To me, that was the message,” she added.
According to a report by Lamar police, Byrd-McPherson and her husband ran their fingers across portions of the car and “realized it was not paint and that the substance could be removed with a finger; similar to pollen,” Newsweek reported.
But the volunteer mayor insisted that she had “a possible suspect in mind,” so Lamar police forwarded her complaint to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), The Charlotte Observer reported.
Byrd-McPherson blamed police for not taking a sample of the substance, and said that without it, SLED was unable to determine what it was, WPDE reported.
“The substance wasn’t saved and the cars were actually cleaned—pressure-washed twice—there was no substance, and so they didn’t have it for the investigation,” she told Newsweek.
But Darlington County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Robby Kilgo said that no sample was taken because there was simply no reason to do so.
The sergeant and deputy who responded to Byrd-McPherson’s home “immediately came to the conclusion that the substance had a yellowish tint to it and that it’s a type of powder similar to pollen,” Lt. Kilgo explained.
“We found it to be pollen,” he reiterated. “There was no reason for us to collect a sample.”
They only forwarded the matter to SLED because the mayor insisted she had been attacked, he said.
“Due the suspicion from her of it being a hate crime, we couldn’t say no,” Lt. Kilgo added.
Contrary to Byrd-McPherson’s claims, SLED said that they “did not open a formal investigation” into the incident, not because of any supposed evidence the officers allegedly failed to collect, but because SLED “did not believe a crime occurred,” Newsweek reported.
The volunteer mayor filed a second report shortly after the incident, and said that a “police officer” notified her that someone planned to kill her.
“There’s a police officer who came to me and said, ‘There’s rumors out there that they’re going to assassinate you,’” she told Newsweek.
Byrd-McPherson said she told the officer that the threat was a “federal crime.”
“There’s always these remnants of racism,” she lamented to Newsweek. “I don’t care about a car. What I want is my life.”