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Target of Racist Display in Rio Grande, Congressional Candidate Alexander Responds

A photo circulating online appears to depict stuffed dolls hanging from nooses tied to a tree above a sign for a Black candidate for Congress. Police in Middle Township confirmed to the Herald that an investigation is ongoing

By Shay Roddy

RIO GRANDE – Police are investigating a potential hate crime, after a photo was widely circulated online Election Night, depicting stuffed dolls hanging from nooses tied to a tree above a sign for a Black candidate for Congress. 

A photo posted on theFacebook pageCape May Scanner, which was also received by law enforcement, showed a campaign sign for Tim Alexander staked in the ground below a stuffed Muppet, the Cat in the Hat character and another child’s doll which were all suspended in the air by a rope tied around their necks, attached to a tree branch on the other end. The post indicated the photo was taken Nov. 8 near a large liquor store on Route 47. 

Alexander was shown the photo by his campaign manager Zacharia Hartman Nov. 9 and at first couldn’t believe it.  

“I’ve never been a victim of a direct messaging of hate such as this,” he said. “Maybe they’ll go back in their caves or to whatever slice of hell they came from. Then I thought, maybe we’ll get lucky, and they’ll catch these dumb b——s.” 

Alexander, a Democrat, washandily defeatedby Republican Jeff Van Drew for a seat in the House of Representatives the night before he learned of the incident. His initial reaction, when hearing of the hateful act, was as you may expect. 

“Son of a b—–s,” Alexander recalled thinking when he first heard the news, adding a disclaimer for the Herald: “I’m going to be frank with you.  

“Then I’m thinking, ‘Jeff [Van Drew] won and they’re still doing this s—t.’ Then, it slowly comes to you.”  

 The noose is a widely recognized symbol of racism, intimidation and hate, with roots in America’s history of lynching. Many of these lynchings were carried out as public spectacles by the Klu Klux Klan and other terror groups who acted as judge, jury and executioner, operating without due process for the victim or respect for their humanity. The NAACP estimatesthat 72% of the 4,743 people lynched in the U.S. in the 19th and 20th centuries were African Americans.  

Middle Township police and the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office released surveillance images Nov. 9 that show someone they say was involved in the hanging of the dolls. They have not announced charges or publicly identified a suspect as of Nov. 14. The photos show a white female with blond hair exiting a late-model dark-colored sedan, that appeared to be a Buick, and hanging the dolls, prosecutors said in their release.  

“I got a little scared,” Alexander said in an interview, describing the storm of thoughts and emotions he experienced processing the implications of the display for himself and his family. “There was all that. Within a matter of a few minutes.” 

Middle Township Mayor Tim Donohue told the Herald he was “horrified” when he first saw the post. In a statement posted to Middle Township’s Facebook page, Donohue wrote:  

“This is not who we are in Middle Township. We stand united against all forms of racism, hate, threats and intimidation.   

“If this investigation proves charges are warranted, the perpetrator(s) will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”  

Reached by the Herald Nov. 9, Donohue referred a reporter to the online statement. He said he has not reached out to Alexander and will let law enforcement do their job.  

“For now, I’m going to see where the investigation goes. Hopefully, we should know more later today,” he said.  

New Jersey’s biased intimidation statuteis one of the laws the perpetrator could potentially be accused of violating, according to Middle Township Police Department Det. First Class Kurt Saettler. 

 

Alexander Shares his Reaction… 

Despite once being a victim of bad police work, followed by a career spent investigating crime and prosecuting defendants, Alexander, 56, said he never experienced anything personally quite like this incident. 

“I was a victim of profiling, where police officers in North Jersey shot at me, arrested me and charged me with a crime I did not commit before I became a police officer. I was attracted to becoming a police officer and then after that incident, I didn’t want to do it anymore. My grandfather convinced me the only way you make change is from within, so go back and become a police officer,” he explained. 

That event helped shape his perspective and career. Having a blunt conversation about divisiveness and race was not something the former Congressional candidate shied away from.  

“I think that we have to hold our leaders responsible for the s–t that is happening. Some of the stuff they do say,” he said. “They have to be aware of it, that it has consequences.” 

Alexander is now a civil rights attorney, after earning his law degree from Rutgers in 2012. Before entering the legal profession, he spent many years as a Detective Captain at the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office. More recently, he worked for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office as a major trials prosecutor, before entering private practice.  

His first foray into politics, as a Democrat for the Congressional seat from New Jersey’s Second District this year, proved unsuccessful, losing with under 38% of the vote to the incumbent Democrat-turned-Republican Van Drew, who received over 61% of votes Nov. 8. 

 

Alexander on Divisiveness and Politics Contributing to Hate… 

While he said he would want to hear from the perpetrator to better understand the motivation, Alexander agreed that the increasing divisiveness in the country is a big contributor to its overall problem. 

“It started with people’s fear and politicians are just capitalizing on that and embracing that for no other reason than to get elected,” Alexander said. “Politicians cause a lot of the problems that we see.” 

While he agreed this incident is an act of pure racism, Alexander said politics could have contributed to the person developing their hatred. 

“Racism is hatred. But I also think that a lot of it is born through this political tribalism and divisiveness…. People become so enraged that they lose all rational thinking and it’s disgusting. It really is,” Alexander said. “It is racism. But politicians own it. They own a piece of it. And I’m not giving them a bye on it.” 

“A lot of his rhetoric is a racist dog whistle,” Alexander said. “Generally speaking, when political leaders, leaders in our community make these racist statements…keep blowing these racist dog whistles, it opens the floodgates for people like this lady to come through and say, ‘It must be ok because my political leadership is doing this stuff, then I should be able to do it.”’  

 

Alexander on His Involvement with Investigators and What Justice Would Look Like… 

Alexander said he was contacted by the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, who informed him they were investigating but said that was the extent of his knowledge of the investigation. He said he wasn’t offered any law enforcement protection following the act of intimidation, but also wouldn’t want any and prefers they dedicate the resources to apprehending the culprit.  

Then, after a successful prosecution and during a sentencing hearing, Alexander said he would want to hear an explanation.  

“I want to hear from her. I want to hear her that I did this because X-Y-Z. And then, if nothing else, it just gives me a greater understanding,” he explained.  

Alexander said he would not offer a victim impact statement in court because he wouldn’t want the person responsible to get any satisfaction out of knowing what they did affected him. He also said he would not seek a jail sentence, something he said would be a misuse of the justice system. 

“I don’t think I need to share with her anything about me, or how that affected me. I know the courts like that, and it helps their determination on sentencing,” he said, adding that based on his experience in court, he believes sometimes defendants feed off knowing that their actions had an impact.  

“People who really don’t have remorse, who are just going through the steps because they want a lighter sentence, they like hearing from the victim. They like knowing they impacted their life in that way, because it gives them some sense of gratification,” Alexander said. “So, I won’t do that, but I do want to hear what her justification is.”  

 

Alexander on How This is Not Indicative of his Experience With the People of Cape May County… 

Alexander said this crime could have happened anywhere. 

“I’m not associating Cape May County with her. I think she’s a relic of a time long gone and could be from anywhere. And they are everywhere,” Alexander said. “I know that’s not what that area is about.” 

He focused on the individual. 

“This dinosaur, somebody moved the rock, and she was able to get out and unfortunately send this message. But it doesn’t represent who Cape May County is. It doesn’t represent who I’ve met,” he said. “Everybody I have met were fantastic people and they weren’t necessarily supporters. They were honest and they were open. I love that. I love the exchange.” 

 

Alexander on if There is Some Good that Could Come from This… 

“We can try to bury it and try to hide from it. Or we can discuss it. It seems we’re going to discuss this one,” Alexander said.  

“Maybe ultimately, she’ll come forward and say, ‘This is why I did it.’ Maybe there will be some contrition there and remorse or maybe she will double down. I think a lot of people, believe it or not, are ok with doubling down on these racist incidents.” 

Asked what’s next for him professionally, Alexander said he is analyzing and will make a decision at the beginning of next year. 

In the meantime, he is going to take a vacation and consult with his family.  

“It really is a family decision,” he said.  

 

How to Help… 

Anyone with information about the crime, or who recognizes the woman or car in the photos provided by authorities, contact the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office at (609) 465-1135. The information can also be reported anonymously through  www.cmcpo.tips.  

 

To contact the reporter, Shay Roddy, email sroddy@cmcherald.com

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