Deputy Apologizes for "Offensive" Halloween Decoration

By: Greg Gullberg; Dontaye Carter Email
By: Greg Gullberg; Dontaye Carter Email

[UPDATE] Valdosta, Georgia - October 5, 2011

Lowndes County Detective Chris Burke says he's sorry offending residents with his dummy but he was just getting into the Halloween spirit.

"To the people in the community that I offended, I apologize," said Burke.

He says each year he decorates for Halloween.

The detective says a couple of months ago he was receiving training in New Mexico when he saw an old western graveyard that inspired these decorations.

Burke says he created the tombstones with the hanging dummy to re-create the graveyard.

But neighbors don't see it that way.

"I didn't see an African American male, a white male or anything. To me it was a Halloween decoration and nothing more," said Burke.

When WCTV showed the picture to the Valdosta Chapter of the NAACP, the president asked Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine to investigate it.

Sheriff Prine is and says the Detective didn't use the best judgment in this situation.

"I certainly don't think that he meant to offend anyone with that dummy hanging there," said Prine.

Burke has since taken the dummy down.

He says he likes to decorate for all the holidays and is sorry about all the trouble the dummy created.
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[UPDATE] Valdosta, Georgia - October 3, 2011 -

The Sheriff of Lowndes County is speaking out about a controversial Halloween decoration at one of his deputies' home.

The decoration outside of Deputy Chis Burke's home is a black executioner's hood over the head of a life sized doll with a noose around its neck.

Burke says its a Halloween decoration and he didn't mean any harm by it.

Sheriff Chris Prine says he is looking into the matter to see if he should take any action. Meanwhile, the head of the Valdosta-Lowndes County NAACP is calling the decoration an "act of hate." Leigh Touchton says she plans to set up a meeting with Sheriff Prine to address the issue. She says deputies should be held to an even higher standard of community respect.

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Valdosta, Georgia - October 3, 2011 -

Pictures can be found attached above.

Halloween is just around the corner and we're starting to see Haunted Houses and giant pumpkins everywhere.

One Lowndes County Deputy's so-called decoration, however, struck some as offensive.

Paige Mitchell's mother snapped a photo of a life-sized doll. It had a black executioner's hood over the head not unlike one's seen in Medieval movies.

Mitchell says it resembled, "A black, African American."

"It's disturbing, and I'm sure it's disturbing to a lot of people," Mitchell said.

The life-sized doll was laying on the ground when WCTV arrived to the home.

What disturbs neighbors even more is that the men responsible is Lowndes County Deputy Chris Burke.

"This was by no means meant to be offensive to anybody," Burke said. "This is just a Halloween decoration that I've done for my children."

Burke said it was just Halloween fun, no different than ghouls and goblins, or the occasional corpse bride. He says he never knew it would get blown out of proportion the way it did.

"It was never intended to be taken anyway other than what it is: a Halloween prop," Burke said.

WCTV took the photo around town to get residents' opinions.

"Ah, it looks like someone is hanging," one resident said. "It looks like a black gentleman is being hung to me."

WCTV ask the resident's opinion upon telling him Burke intended it to be a spooky gag.

"Maybe he just wasn't thinking when he put it up," the resident said.

Mitchell isn't convinced.

"I don't think that has anything to do with Halloween," Mitchell said.


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