La. Slaying Recalls History of Racial Turmoil

Cynthia Lynch, 43, was shot dead at a Klan initiation.
Cynthia Lynch, 43, was shot dead at a Klan initiation. (AP)
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By Michael Kunzelman and Kevin McGill
Associated Press
Thursday, November 13, 2008

BOGALUSA, La., Nov. 12 -- Hattie Dillon got a firsthand taste of the racial hatred that gripped this city in the 1960s when a metal bolt flung by someone in an angry crowd gashed her head as she marched for civil rights.

On Wednesday, sitting on her front porch just off Main Street, the 61-year-old, who is black, said Bogalusa is better now. But the bloody legacy of racial violence and brazen Ku Klux Klan activity in the area remains -- evidenced by the arrest of eight local people in the death of an Oklahoma woman shot when a weekend Klan initiation went awry.

"History was made this month," Dillon said, referring to Barack Obama's election as the nation's first black president. "Then our eyes opened again."

Bogalusa, a logging town dominated by a huge paper mill and located about 60 miles north of New Orleans, is the largest city in Washington Parish, which, like the whole state, was won by John McCain, not Obama, last week.

Sunday's killing was in St. Tammany Parish, just across the Washington Parish line; all the suspects are from Washington Parish, which was beset by anti-desegregation violence more than 40 years ago. In 1965, Oneal Moore, the parish's first black sheriff's deputy, was slain in an ambush, a crime that has not been solved.

"In 1965, the Klan ran Bogalusa, and so it's not at all surprising to see the legacy of that organization reemerge in the form of a new generation of Klan advocates," said Lance Hill, executive director of Tulane University's Southern Institute for Education and Research.

In this week's shooting, St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain said Cynthia C. Lynch, 43, of Tulsa, was recruited over the Internet to participate in the KKK ritual in a rural area and then was to return to her state to attract members. Strain said the group's leader, Raymond "Chuck" Foster, 44, shot and killed her after a fight broke out when she asked to be taken back to the town of Slidell.

"She came here freely to participate," said Lt. Joe Piconi, a spokesman for the sheriff's office.

Statements by the suspects suggest Lynch had gone through the group's initiation ritual, Piconi said, "but just didn't really mix well with the leader, the so-called imperial wizard, and after two days was ready to leave."

Tulsa police arrested Lynch in May 2005 on charges of breach of the peace, resisting an officer and obstructing an officer, but those charges were dismissed, Oklahoma court records show. She also was arrested on charges of possession of a controlled drug, first offense, according to Tulsa County arrest records.

Foster faces a second-degree murder charge and was being held without bond. Seven others -- five men and two women ages 20 to 30 -- were charged with obstruction of justice and were held on $500,000 bond.

For Louisiana, the killing furthered its image as a state with poor race relations that persisted after the civil rights era.

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