As authorities investigate a hate crime which took place in her own backyard, Turlock resident Terresa Rolland is wondering how she and her family will sleep soundly at night moving forward.
Rolland was awoken early Friday morning just after 2 a.m. by a neighbor banging desperately on her front door, telling her that her property was on fire. When she went to the backyard, Rolland saw that her fence near the alley was up in flames. At 2:23 a.m., Turlock Fire Department responded to the fire in the 1000 block of Kenwood Avenue where both the fence and a tree were burning, and quickly extinguished the blaze.
According to TFD, the fire was located in the jurisdiction of Stanislaus County and began as a debris fire in the alley which then spread to the fence and trees.
Rolland, who is black, said that as she surveyed damage from the fire later that morning, she noticed a racial slur had been spray painted on the fence in the alley facing her home.
“Who the hell would do this? That’s immediately what I thought to myself,” Rolland said. “The alley in the back of my house is very active at night, but this has never happened and I’ve lived in this house for over 20 years.”
The graffiti occurred on the east side of the alley, within the jurisdiction of the City of Turlock. The Turlock Police Department has determined the act to be a hate crime, they said in a release, though were told the spray paint had shown up on the fence within the last week.
In addition, TPD’s investigation also revealed that TFD had responded to a previous fire at 12:44 a.m. that same night, which was located within a close proximity to the first in the 1000 block of Mitchell Avenue. While this fire was classified as suspicious and the cause of both blazes is still under investigation, it has not been determined if the fires and the graffiti are in fact related.
Rolland told the Journal that Friday was the first time she had seen the graffiti, which was painted in a place she and her family frequently walk through when visiting her cousin nearby. It is her opinion that the graffiti and the fire are connected.
“It can’t be a coincidence,” she said. “I’m still just shocked because I can’t believe anyone would take the time to do that...I think someone purposely did this. I don’t think it was some kid doing it.”
When Rolland posted photos of the fire’s aftermath and the graffiti on social media today, she received an outpouring of support from community members banding together to clean up the charred mess, rebuild her fence and raise money for a security system so that her family can have peace of mind.
Rolland and her three sons live in the home, along with her mother.
“We’re all concerned about going to sleep tonight just because we don’t know who did this. There is some fear for sure, just because our front yard has a fence as well. Will they burn that, too?” Rolland said. “I’m in awe with the support, the concern, the care, the love of the town. I grew up here so it means a lot...People who don’t even know me took the time to write something and keep us encouraged.”
This isn’t the first time a hate crime has been investigated in Turlock in recent years.
In 2013, a white father and son assaulted a black woman outside of Staley’s Club in a vicious attack that was classified as a hate crime. In spring 2018, TPD launched an investigation into a reported hate crime after a white man punched a Hispanic woman at a fruit stand. That same year, two men attacked a Sikh man as he was putting out campaign signs, vandalized his truck and told him to “go back to his own country.”
After white supremacist posters and stickers popped up on poles around the Stanislaus State campus in 2016 and 2017, respectively, the Turlock City Council unanimously adopted the “Not in Our Community” resolution, meant to oppose bigotry, hate-based groups and hate-based crime.
Despite the fear she feels at the moment, Rolland said she knows the Turlock community is one that has more community members who are loving and accepting than those filled with hate.
“I’m very grateful for all of the support and the care from the community. I’ve been in tears most of the day because it’s overwhelming to know that strangers care so much,” she said. “I love this town.”
This is an on-going investigation and TPD officers are working to identify all of the parties involved in this incident.
The Turlock Police Department asks that anyone with information call Officer Martin Marquez at 209-668-5550 extension 6761. You can also contact the Turlock Police Department’s Tip Line at 209-668-5550 extension 6780 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Turlock Police Department is an active participant in the Crime Stoppers Program. Callers can leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636 and may be eligible for a cash reward.
A GoFundMe account has been set up for the Rolland family to purchase security equipment for their yard and can be viewed at https://www.gofundme.com/f/7pp2d2-helping-our-neighbor?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cf%20share-flow-1&fbclid=IwAR09JJ0S4CKYusGg14qrX2JLu6Nc_n1a31p72hDrcfotPlTJ9RDD2KnB_Vk.