Jason Bourne, a disabled veteran who lives in Surprise, drove down to Arizona Golf Resort in Mesa to play a round with his friends on March 26.
What they saw on the back nine stunned and disgusted them.
“We get to the 13th hole and see a figure hanging from a tree. A mannequin of a Black man with his hands shackled behind his back and a noose around his neck hanging from a tree,” Bourne said.
Bourne said he and his golfing companions, all African-Americans, were outraged by the figure in clear view of the golf course. He said they quit their game and stormed back to the golf shop to complain.
“According to the manager of the golf course, it’s been there for over five years,” Bourne said. “He said, ‘What can we do? It’s not our property.’”
The owner of the home is Wade Brooks, who also owns Wade’s Discount Muffler and Brakes.
Brooks, who turned 63 last week, was mad at the suggestion his creation — made of mufflers and a catalytic converter — is racist or hateful.
“It’s a frickin’ cowboy horse thief!” Brooks exclaimed.
He insisted he made modifications to his original creation.
“Some dumbass golfer came toward my backyard two years ago, laughing, ‘He’s got a Black man hanging from his tree!’ So I went straight to my garage and got some paint and painted him a light color.”
“I’ve got all kinds of Black friends,” Brooks said. “I am married to a lady of color.”
Brooks said he considers himself “an artisan” and has other sculptures in his yard.
He said he had no intent on offending anyone.
“My intent was this cowboy hasn’t had a shower or bath since his christening. So he’s a little bit dirty … This is not a Black man,” Brooks shouted. “There is nothing that resembles a Black man. That’s what irritates me, everyone is so racially sensitive.”
Brooks said after the noose was cut down by someone three years ago, he hung it again higher in the tree.
“I’m not going to take things down because it offends somebody,” Brooks said.
Bourne was not convinced by Brooks’ explanation.
“I’m not buying it’s a dirty cowboy … The face (of the hanging figure) is dark brown,” Bourne said. “All you see is a Black man hanging from a tree.
He posted photos he took on a Facebook page he shares with other black golfers, adding, “Everyone said the same thing: That’s a Black man hanging from the tree.”
“This is wrong.”
Unsatisfied by the golf course’s reaction, Bourne called in complaints to Mayor John Giles, City Manager Chris Brady and Mesa Police.
He said a police officer went to the house and then called him. “He said because it’s hanging in his backyard on his property they can’t do anything about it,” Bourne said. “Even though it’s in public view on the golf course … (The officer) said that he didn’t feel it was a hate crime and labeled it as ‘muffler art.’
“I said I didn’t agree with that because of the dark skin tone and the shackles around the feet. He then responded with it’s on his property and nothing he could legally do.”
Det. Brandi George, a Mesa police spokeswoman, confirmed Officer Jason Flam investigated Bourne’s complaint.
“He ruled it’s not a hate crime,” George said. “That’s been in his yard for over 10 years. This is nothing new. I would say it’s in bad taste but it’s not a crime.”
Bourne said he was incredulous that the golf course manager hasn’t done anything to hide the hanging man.
“I said, ‘You at least could have put high shrubs up there,” Bourne said. “Something to try to block the view. He just shook his head like, ‘What can I do?’”
Wallace Nelson, general manager of Arizona Golf Resort, said there is no easy fix to block the view – and wishes Brooks would take down the hanging figure.
“This is out of my hands,” Nelson said. “I’ve talked to the HOA. They have no control over what happens in his backyard. I don’t agree with what he’s doing. But for me to go out and build a wall would be ridiculous.”
Nelson said he has had “numerous complaints” about the hanging figure and other objects in Brooks’ yard. “I’ve tried to talk to the guy. He won’t take them down,” the golf course manager said.
Nelson laughed scornfully when told Brooks said it represents a white horse thief who is dirty.
“It looks like a Black man. It needs to be taken down. For this guy to do something like that and people to see it, it’s awful,” Nelson said. “It’s disgusting. It’s disturbing. … The city needs to step in and do something about it.”
Bourne pondered that if the muffler figure would have just been leaning against the tree, he probably wouldn’t have thought twice.
“But you literally have him in a noose with shackles on his feet and his hands behind his back,” Bourne said.
And he was adamant he was not giving up on his mission: “I’m determined to have it removed.”