A Broadalbin man who thought he was doing a good deed instead created a traffic hazard and was arrested when he removed a stop sign that contained racial slurs, city police said.
Lee E. Schopmeier, 71, of 647 Lake View Road, faces a charge of criminal nuisance, a Class B misdemeanor. He was accused Thursday of unbolting a stop sign at Lawrence and Franklin streets and leaving it on the ground.
Schopmeier allegedly removed the sign because it contained the name of a hate group — “KKK” — and a racial epithet that police did not specify. The sign was down for about an hour and there were no reported accidents at the intersection, which is a two-way stop, said Police Chief Donald VanDeusen.
“Schopmeier believes his intentions were good, but we want to discourage people from taking matters into their own hands,” VanDeusen said.
Schopmeier could not be reached Friday.
According to police, one of Schopmeier’s tenants who lives near the sign filed a police report about the racial slur. A police officer went to the neighborhood and canvassed residents for information, but turned up no clues. The officer returned the next day for a follow-up investigation, again finding no clues. He then placed a work order with the city’s Department of Public Works to clean or replace sign.
VanDeusen said the DPW checked the sign and found the slur was only visible under certain lighting conditions. Still, the DPW decided to replace the sign and put in an order to buy one from a sign-making facility.
VanDeusen said Schopmeier grew impatient for the replacement to arrive and took down the sign, then called the DPW and told what he had done. The DPW went to the intersection and erected a temporary stop sign.
“We are sensitive to racial slurs, but we have to temper this against public safety,” VanDeusen said. “The stop sign still served a purpose.”
City police are still investigating the racial slur and are asking for help. People can call 773-4506 with information.