Washington Township police are widening their inquiry into racial incidents at the Turnersville Wal-Mart after the arrest of a juvenile on charges of harassment and bias intimidation, Chief Rafael Muniz said yesterday.
At a noon news conference, Muniz and Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton announced that they had arrested a 16-year-old Atlantic County boy accused of using a store telephone in the home-and-garden section last Sunday to announce over the public-address system: “Attention, Wal-Mart shoppers: Will all the black people please leave the store. Thank you.”
Gloucester County NAACP leaders, who attended the news conference, said they had been told of two other recent incidents at the Wal-Mart, on Route 42.
On Wednesday, a man called the store and asked Wal-Mart to tell African Americans to leave. And someone used the store’s public-address system several months ago, too, to ask African Americans to leave, they said.
Muniz said he was seeking a warrant to go through Wal-Mart’s telephone records to verify and trace the Wednesday call.
The boy was arrested late Friday after Muniz put his 13-member detective staff on the case.
The police were joined by county detectives.
The incident Wednesday was reported by Terence Jones, chairman of the NAACP chapter’s fact-finding committee. At 12:21 p.m. that day, he said, a person called the Turnersville Wal-Mart and said, “You need to get the n- out of Wal-Mart right now.”
Jones also said that about three or four months ago at the 24-hour superstore, someone had commandeered the public-address system about 2:30 a.m. and asked African Americans to leave.
Muniz said Wal-Mart had not reported either of those incidents to the police.
Winters [Gloucester County NAACP president Loretta Winters], of the NAACP, said she would talk to Wal-Mart about setting up sensitivity training.
“Hopefully, they will welcome us in,” she said.