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Cross-Burning : Man Stays but Moves His Family

Times Staff Writer

A black man who awakened to a burning 8-foot cross in front of his Santa Clarita house said Friday that he has moved his family as a precaution.

“My wife and kids are no longer living in the house,” said Derrick Quals, 31. “My wife will never be the same. She’s hysterical. I have a 4-year-old daughter and a 9-month-old son. How do you explain a cross-burning to them?”

Quals, who owns liquor stores in South- Central Los Angeles, said he will remain in the house, but his family will stay with relatives until they feel that it is safe to return.

Quals said he was awakened by his son’s crying about 2 a.m. Thursday. When he went to quiet the baby, he spotted the blazing cross through a front window of his $500,000 home on Crestview Drive, he said.

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“My first thought was, why?” Quals said. “A lot of questions were going through my mind that I didn’t have answers for.”

Quals spoke at a news conference on the patio of his five-bedroom, Spanish-style home overlooking the Santa Clarita Valley. He was joined by Robert H. Beswick, his attorney; Jose De Sosa, president of the California State Conference of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People and the San Fernando Valley chapter of the NAACP; and Richard Levin, executive director of the San Fernando Valley Fair Housing Council.

Quals said the incident may have stemmed from an ongoing dispute with Hidden Valley Homeowners Assn. members about the size and style of fence he wants to build on his property. He said the dispute has lasted nine months.

Asking for Inquiry

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De Sosa said the NAACP will ask the state attorney general’s office and the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office to look into the matter.

“We believe the residents of this community, as with any other community, don’t want this type of cloud hanging over its citizens,” De Sosa said.

The FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are investigating the incident, spokesmen said.

Mike R. Granen, president of the 271-member homeowner group, said in a telephone interview that several residents have argued that the proposed wrought-iron fence would block their hillside view. Granen declined to say whether he thought Thursday’s incident was related to the dispute over the fence.

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“I sincerely hope it has no relation,” Granen said.

Granen said the homeowner group has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons involved in the crime.

Authorities have no suspects in the incident, Sheriff’s Sgt. Dick Young said.

Quals said that he has no plans to move and that “support from my fellow homeowners has been overwhelming.”

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“Nobody deserves this kind of thing,” neighbor Jamie Alexander said. “We live in America. You work hard for 20 years to buy a nice house. Why can’t you have what you want?”


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