WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. — A 16-year-old boy who police said made an announcement at Wal-Mart ordering all black people in the store to leave was charged with harassment and bias intimidation, authorities said Saturday.
The boy grabbed one of the courtesy phones at Wal-Mart’s Washington Township store Sunday evening and calmly announced: “Attention, Wal-Mart customers: All black people, leave the store now,” police said.
The teen was arrested Friday and released to the custody of his parents.
“This was an extremely disturbing event on many levels,” Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton said. “Any statements like these that can cause harm or grave concern must be addressed as quickly we possibly can.”
He said the case would be handled in juvenile court in neighboring Atlantic County, where the boy lives.
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, but the other boy has not been charged.
Officials for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said the announcement was “unacceptable,” and Dalton praised the company for its strong cooperation in the investigation.
“We’re pleased this matter is resolved,” Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said. “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.”