Teen charged in NJ Walmart racial comment case
(AP) - A 16-year-old boy wasresponsible for an intercom announcement ordering black people toleave from a Walmart store in southern New Jersey, angeringcustomers and prompting company leaders to apologize, police saidSaturday.
The boy, whose name is not being released because he is ajuvenile, was arrested Friday on charges of harassment and biasintimidation in the incident at Walmart's Washington Townshipstore. Authorities said he was released to the custody of hisparents; they did not know whether he had a lawyer.
A male voice came over the Walmart public-address system Sundayevening and calmly announced: "Attention, Walmart customers: Allblack people, leave the store now."
Authorities would not say whether the announcement was plannedor made impulsively. Police said they were also investigating ateenage boy who accompanied the suspect to the store, but had notcharged the other boy.
Although a manager quickly apologized for the remark over theintercom, many customers expressed their anger to store management.
Officials for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., saidthe announcement was "unacceptable." Spokesman David Tovar saidthe company planned to release a statement later Saturday, afterthe news conference.
The company said it has already updated the store's intercomsystem to prevent a similar incident from happening again.
It was the latest in a series of problems the retailer has hadin its dealings with minorities and women.
There have been several past instances of black customersclaiming they were treated unfairly at Walmart stores, and thecompany faced lawsuits alleging that women were passed over infavor of men for pay raises and promotions.
However, the National Association for the Advancement of ColoredPeople has said the company has worked hard in recent years to showit cares about diversity.