Potential Noose at Sonoma Raceway Being Investigated as Possible Hate Crime

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Law enforcement is investigating a possible noose found hanging near the Sonoma County Raceway. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Department is investigating what appeared to be a rope tied in the shape of a noose found hanging near the Sonoma Raceway on Saturday as a possible hate crime.

Steve Page, president and general manager of the auto racing track located at Sears Point, said an employee found the rope hanging from a tree behind a building used for health screenings.

“We had members of our team take it down,” Page said. “We looked at it. I mean, by appearances, it's clearly in the shape of a noose.”

Nooses have long been a racist symbol associated with the lynching of Black people in the United States. Under California state law, it is a misdemeanor to hang a noose, "knowing it to be a symbol representing a threat to life."

Sonoma County sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the scene after the raceway contacted them Monday morning.

Sheriff's department officials confirmed to KQED that deputies are working with violent crimes detectives to investigate the rope as a possible hate crime.

Before Page called law enforcement Monday, he said, "We're trying to learn more before we put law enforcement through a fire drill ... If we think that there is an innocent explanation, then wasting law enforcement's time on it is something that we don't think serves anybody's purpose."

Page said the raceway was initially looking into the possibility that the thick piece of twine had been there for a long time.

But after a raceway tenant informed Page that while he remembered seeing the rope there before, it had not previously been tied into the shape of a noose, Page reached out to law enforcement.


The discovery comes as a noose was found in the garage stall of Bubba Wallace in Talladega, Alabama on Sunday. Wallace is NASCAR’s only Black driver in the Cup Series — its top stock car racing circuit — and led a recently successful campaign to ban Confederate flags from NASCAR facilities and events.

“Look at what's happening in our sport right now. You look at the noose that was hung in Bubba Wallace's pit stall in Talladega yesterday. These kinds of acts disgust us,” Page said. “If this was an act of racism, we would be horrified by it. We do not tolerate acts of hate.”

This also comes as police and the FBI investigate several ropes found hanging from trees at Oakland's Lake Merritt last week.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Department encourages the public to report any information they may know about the raceway incident at 707-565-2650.

What to Do If You Witness a Hate Crime

If you believe you've seen or been the victim of a hate crime or incident, the California Attorney General's Office recommends that you call the local sheriff or police department immediately to make a report. It's also suggested that you make a report to the FBI, so it can be investigated as a federal crime.

You can also report hate crimes to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC, however, recommends you report to local law enforcement first.

Additionally, law enforcement officials recommend that you also take notes and save evidence from the incident to aid law enforcement in their investigation.

Several Bay Area cities have their own processes of reporting hate crimes, including Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco.

KQED's Lakshmi Sarah contributed to this report.