WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. - A 16-year-old boy who police said made an announcement at Walmart ordering all black people in the southern New Jersey store to leave was charged with harassment and bias intimidation, authorities said yesterday.
The boy, whose name is not being released because he is a juvenile, grabbed one of the courtesy phones at the Washington Township store last Sunday evening and calmly announced: "Attention, Walmart customers: All black people, leave the store now," police said.
The teen was arrested Friday and released to the custody of his parents; police did not know whether he had a lawyer.
"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 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.
Officials for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said the announcement was "unacceptable."
"We have updated our intercom system at this store to prevent this from happening again. We again apologize to all of our customers and associates who had to listen to something so offensive," Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said in a statement.
Although a manager quickly went on the intercom system and apologized for the remark, many customers expressed their anger to store management. Similar incidents are said to have happened at the store in recent months that were not reported.