It started with a doorbell ringing in the middle of the night.
Then an acid bomb exploded in her front yard. Someone threw oranges at her front door. And in January, they dumped a dead Christmas tree on her porch.
Terri Boatman said the pattern of harassment drove her and her daughter from their Rossmoor home. Now Rossmoor residents are left with unsettling questions about the community and whether Boatman was the victim of racially-motivated harassment.
, issued a statement Tuesday saying she hasn't received an update on the incident from authorities in more than two months. Boatman also said she was glad she decided to leave Rossmoor, according the statement released through the Rossmoor Predator Management Team.
“I just no longer felt safe in that home,” said Boatman who, until recently, lived in the 3000 block of Mainway Drive with her 18-year-old daughter.
“Why us … that's the question that we all ask?” she said in the statement. “I work hard to provide my child with the best, which is why I chose Rossmoor. I am just as deserving of the 'safe community' that everyone proclaims comes with a Rossmoor address.”
While authorities said they didn’t think the crime was racially motivated, some argue that Boatman – who is African-American – had been targeted because of her race. The Orange County Human Relations, a nonprofit devoted to eradicating hate crime in Orange County, announced that it was considering the possibility that the incident was a hate crime.
Now living in Los Angeles County with her daughter, Boatman said she’s unsure whether the incident was racially-motivated.
“I want to try to maintain faith in people,” Boatman said. “And I don’t’ know if I can label it.”
She said she still remembers the day she walked out to find the four plastic bottles full of blue liquid on her property on Dec. 2 Sunday morning.
THE DECISION TO LEAVE
Boatman didn't think they were acid bombs.
She thought they were garbage.
“I was irritated,” Boatman said. “I thought someone had littered in my yard.”
But soon, Boatman said, “apprehension set in” and she called the authorities.
Then one of the devices exploded.
Three of the devices were found on Boatman’s front yard, one was found in her driveway and one in a tree in nearby rush Park. No suspects have been named. No arrests have been made.
Boatman said the ongoing harassment only confirmed her decision to leave, a decision she had made after hearing a call from an Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigator about the acid bombs Dec. 6.
In the phone message Boatman played for Patch, the investigator said the acid bombs were most likely prank used by young people and that she shouldn't be too concerned about it.
Boatman said she wasn’t sure if that meant acid bombs were common in Rossmoor or Orange County, but she wanted out and moved in the first week of January.
She also said that was the last time the OCSD had contacted her, and she'd like an update.
Calls to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department were not returned.
RACISM IN ROSSMOOR?
Dave Lara, co-founder of the Rossmoor Predator Management Team, said he doesn’t think the community is an “overtly racist” place.
If it was, he said, “I think we would have a whole lot of other incidents (like Boatman’s) here."
He said other members of minorities on the block hadn't been targeted. However, many Rossmoor residents are “not in tune with the changing population or southern California" and that isolated incidents of prejudice do occur, added Lara.
Members of the Rossmoor Homeowners Association Board of Directors declined to comment on the issue.
Lara, who is Hispanic, said he, his wife and a number of other residents who are members of minority groups have experienced a handful of hurtful comments about their ethnicity.
“Everybody you talk that’s a (member of a) minority has a story about being treated coldly,” he said.
Lara and his wife reached out to Boatman after the acid bomb incident, Lara said he believes that all harassment incidents are related.
According to Lara, the Rossmoor Predator Management Team released Boatman’s statements because they wanted to encourage law enforcement to continue investigating the case, and they wanted people to remember that the suspect or suspects are still out there.
“What’s most upsetting to me is the lack of concern of the neighbors,” Boatman said in her statement. “Do they not see any of these activities? Or if they see it, do they just not care? Again, the few folks who reached out to me have been great, but a few folks are not a community. These types of activities can only be stopped if the community bands together.”