Police: Boy, 16, Made Racial Comment at NJ Walmart

NPR, March 21, 2010

A 16-year-old boy who police said made an announcement at Walmart ordering all black people in a southern New Jersey store to leave was charged with harassment and bias intimidation, authorities said Saturday.

The boy, whose name is not being released because he is a juvenile, grabbed one of the courtesy phones at Walmart’s Washington Township store Sunday evening and calmly announced: “Attention, Walmart customers: All black people, leave the store now,” police said.

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“This was an extremely disturbing event on many levels,” Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton said at a news conference. “Any statements like these that can cause harm or grave concern must be addressed as quickly we possibly can.”

Dalton said the case would be handled in juvenile court in neighboring Atlantic County, where the boy lives. He would not say whether the boy has a criminal record, citing the teen’s age, and would not disclose the teen’s race, saying that did not factor into the investigation.

The 16-year-old has been charged with harassment and bias intimidation.

Authorities would not say whether the announcement was planned or made impulsively. Police said they were also investigating a teenage boy who accompanied the suspect to the store, but the other boy has not been charged.

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Winters [Loretta Winters, president of the Gloucester County chapter of the NAACP] said she hopes the boy will get counseling and be educated about sensitivity so he can understand the consequences of his actions.

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