A male voice came over the public-address system Sunday evening at a store in Washington Township, in southern New Jersey, and announced: “Attention, Walmart customers: All black people, leave the store now.”
Shoppers in the store said a manager quickly got on the public-address system and apologized. It was unclear whether a rogue patron or an employee was responsible for the comment, but many customers expressed their anger to store management.
“I want to know why such statements are being made, because it flies in the face of what we teach our children about tolerance for all,” said Sheila Ellington who was shopping with a friend.
Ellington, of Monroe, and her friend Patricia Covington said they plan to boycott the retailer until they’re assured the issue has been addressed.
Officials with Wal-Mart Stores, based in Bentonville, Ark., said the announcement was “unacceptable” and they’re trying to determine who made it and how it happened.
Bill Mitchell, a former Walmart employee who was shopping Wednesday at the store, said he was saddened to hear about the announcement but that, “As a black man, I’ve heard worse things.”More NW
"It was a disgusting comment," Ellington said. "Once I heard that, I was absolutely shocked and appalled."
The man was very calm when he broadcast the message, according to Tinsley.
"He said it as if he had a million dollars for us," the Washington Township resident said. "He wasn't nervous, [he was] really calm."
The women said the store's manager immediately addressed his shock about the incident to a large crowd of angry shoppers who gathered in the front of the store. He then made an apology over the intercom.
Tinsley said her husband then called 911 to report what had happened.
Washington Township Police and the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.
There are 25 phones throughout the 206,000 square-foot supercenter that have access to the paging system, according to the Gloucester County Prosecutors Office.
Officials say they reviewed the store's surveillance system and did not find anyone using the phones. But they do say some of the phones are outside of the camera's reach.More