Pastor says threatening graffiti targeted him — and his life

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Vandals targeted a Newport News pastor with threatening graffiti. According to the minister he found things written like “KKK” or “We hate you!” and somethings too foul to share, all tagged on his home’s back fence.

In church on Sundays, Pastor Thurman Gardner, Sr. usually offers a message. However, last Sunday someone sent him one at home.

“When I came around the corner [of my home] to pick the branches up. That’s when I see this,” Gardner said, pointing to his fence.

It was a slew of slurs tagged on the back of the brown wood picket line.

“The first thing I did was I just started crying,” he said.

The hate speech starts with “KKK.” It targets him with the phrase, “We h8 your church.” It uses a word we can’t write to reference his wife. Finally the message aimed at him reads: “Get out or die.”

“It does scare me,” he said.

Gardner said he called police, but he also called 10 On Your Side.

“I didn’t know who to turn to or whatever,” he shrugged.

Gardner said he has dealt with harassment for three years. He believes it’s because of his role in the community. Until this week, the message came through random acts of mayhem.

“I had an Audi. I had to get rid of it,” he explained. “The window was broke out of it, my license plates were stole off it. Tires were flattened.”

The message hasn’t always been as clear as “get out,” and he doesn’t know who keeps harassing him. But he has an idea why he is a target.

“I’m nobody’s informant, snitch, don’t work the police. I work for God,” he said. “That’s who I work for. Whatever is right is what I’m gonna stand up for.”

Newport News police said they’ve opened an investigation. Gardner said he has been in contact with the organized crime unit.

“I own this place, so I’m not gonna leave my home or be afraid to go anywhere or do anything,” he said.

He has a message to return to whoever defaced his fence: “I gotta forgive them. I still have to love them.”