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Terror Campaign Baffles Family

August 23, 1987

RIVERDALE, Ga. (AP) _ An interracial family living in a racially mixed neighborhood has been the target of a monthlong series of incidents, including a fire set in their garage, and police say they have no explanations.

Since late July, the family has been plagued by rocks thrown through two windows on separate occasions; a bottle of gasoline flaming in their driveway; some flammable liquid twice poured on or near the house; and several threatening phone calls laced with racial slurs.

Police in suburban Clayton County began surveillance of the couple’s rented home early this month.

Capt. Jerry Robinson, head of the criminal investigations division of the Clayton County Police Department, said last week he doesn’t know who might be responsible for the attacks but has ruled out any outside groups.

The FBI, at the request of U.S. Attorney Robert Barr, is investigating the string of incidents for possible civil rights violations. Agent Diader Rosario confirmed the investigation has begun, but he declined to comment on its scope or on any progress.

Susan and Elmo Seay moved last December into the middle-class neighborhood, about 15 miles south of Atlanta. The couple, who have been married 14 years, have an 8-year-old daughter, Melissa.

The Seays are not their neighborhood’s only racial mix. There are several black families, including one other mixed-race couple.

When asked if she knew why her family had been singled out, Mrs. Seay, who is white, said, ″I really don’t ... I have some theories, but nothing I could prove.″

″I wish we did (know who’s behind the incidents), I really do. ... It’s a very scary thing to go through, because you don’t know who you’re fighting,″ she said.

Mrs. Seay usually works through an agency that refers her to child-care jobs in other families’ homes. She has not worked in three weeks, she said, because the agency fears for its clients’ safety.

″It’s tough on us,″ she said. ″We depend on both our incomes.″

Her husband, who is black, is a security manager for a local protective service.

The couple would like to move, she said, but five prospective landlords have rejected the couple after learning they have been the victims of harassment.

The latest incident occurred Aug. 13, when some gasoline was poured around the Seays’ garage door, Robinson said. It was the first incident since police began watching the home.

Mrs. Seay said a policeman assigned to keep an eye on the house left for a moment to escort home some neighbors who had been visiting with her.

Mrs. Seay said she heard a bump on the garage and then ran outside to find the gas. However, she said, the police officer had seen no one.

″We’ve done everything we can,″ Robinson said. ″We staked the place out, appealed to the conscience of the neighborhood to provide us with information, offered to pay for information. There has been nothing.″

Although Robinson said he had no explanation for the attacks, he did say, ″We have found no indication there is any outside involvement, as far as outside groups or anything like that.″

Neighbors said they have no information to offer either.

″We’ve lived here 16 years and never had any incidents of this type before,″ said Roxie Taylor, who lives next door to the Seays. ″I have no idea why them. I basically think it’s been blown all out of proportion by the media.

″It’s hard to believe it’s happening. It’s strange that none of us has seen anything,″ she said.

″We just try to mind our own business,″ said Teresa Soffels, who lives on the other side of the Seays. ″We’ve had trouble before with teen-agers, our mailbox smashed in, that kind of thing, so we just try to stay out of it.″

Whatever the motive, the incidents have made the Seays think twice about their activities, especially those involving their daughter.

″Elmo is afraid to let Melissa spend the night with friends, in case they should try something there,″ Mrs. Seay said.

″We’re just looking to move,″ she added.

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