A Wisconsin man was charged with a hate crime after allegedly cutting his neighbors' internet cable because he thought they were in the country illegally and don't deserve the service, according to a criminal complaint.
On Sept. 22, a worker came to install internet in the Eau Claire apartment upstairs from Shannon Pearson. Pearson, 48, who admitted to drinking alcohol earlier that day, told officers he "was upset because the upstairs occupants were in the country illegally" and "should not be able to get cable."
Pearson initially told officers he informed the cable installer that his upstairs neighbors were in the country illegally, and the installer "freaked out" and cut the cable before leaving. Pearson says he then went upstairs to confront his neighbors, who he said don't speak English, about their status but was pushed down the stairs by one of them.
Through an interpreter, officers interviewed the neighbors —identified as J.L. and M.A. in the complaint — who denied any type of altercation or making contact with Pearson.
The internet installer, who returned to the upstairs apartment during the interview to fix the internet, claimed Pearson "had come outside and was saying racist things" during the installation and that he cut the cable.
According to the complaint, when confronted with the cable installer's statement, Pearson said, "I just don’t feel that they deserve cable. I’m sorry, I don’t. They’re illegal aliens.”
He admitted to cutting the cable with scissors and reiterated that he believed his neighbors were in the country illegally because they don't speak English.
J.L. and M.A. are not in the country illegally, according to police.
It was not specifically clear why Pearson had an issue with his neighbors, but according to the complaint, he expressed frustration to police because "Mexicans" moved into the apartment above him on a monthly basis.
Pearson was arrested and charged with felony criminal damage to property and obstructing an officer. The criminal damage charge was upgraded to a felony because it is classified as a hate crime.
He was released from jail on $1,000 bond and under the condition that he doesn’t try to contact his upstairs neighbors.
If convicted, Pearson may be fined a maximum of $10,000 and serve up to two years in prison. He's due back in court on Nov. 28.
It's not clear if Pearson has an attorney at this time.