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Racial incident in Levittown probed as a potential hate crime

A corridor showing the bulletin board in the

A corridor showing the bulletin board in the Town of Hempstead Market Lane Garage, Tuesday April 29, 2014 in Levittown, where a racial incident occurred after a picture of a monkey was displayed on a bulletin board. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau County district attorney and Hempstead Town officials are investigating what they called a racial incident at a town facility in Levittown that may be considered a hate crime.

A picture of a monkey was displayed on a bulletin board at the town highway facility on Market Lane on Monday, apparently making reference to an African-American employee, officials said.

"We will not rest . . . until the perpetrator is found. We will move to terminate that employee," Town Supervisor Kate Murray said at a news conference, adding the town will require diversity training for the 25 employees at the facility. "There is absolutely no tolerance for any kind of racial hatred, any kind of intolerance."

Jimmy Howard, 40, an equipment operator for the highway department for eight years, was the target, town officials said. Howard called for the person who posted the image to come forward.

"I was insulted. Humiliated," Howard said of the image that was labeled "Jimmy's baby picture." "Everybody was laughing, saying, 'Did you see the picture on the wall?' So I was hurt. I felt embarrassed. I went home crying."

Hempstead Town officials and African-American community leaders participated in a prayer circle at the news conference and called for an end to hatred and racism. The town also required diversity training in 2007 when two nooses were discovered on a forklift in a town-owned garage in Roosevelt.

Rev. Arthur Mackey Jr. of the Mt. Sinai Baptist Church Cathedral in Roosevelt made town officials aware of the Levittown incident after Howard, a parishioner, told him about the photo. Mackey works for the town as a community outreach assistant.

"After the investigation, whoever is found guilty, we call on their termination . . . because this kind of racism, whether it is with the LA Clippers, whether it is in America's largest township, cannot be allowed in 2014," Mackey said, referring to racial comments recently made by the owner of the NBA team.

The incident was referred to District Attorney Kathleen Rice's office for investigation and would be reported to Nassau County police, officials said.

"We take these disturbing allegations seriously and are investigating them to determine whether evidence can prove that a hate crime was committed," Rice said in a statement.

With Patricia Kitchen

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