Customers at a New Jersey Walmart were shocked when a disturbing message came across the store’s loudspeaker: “Attention Walmart customers, all black people must leave the store.”
While that incident, which happened two years ago, caused an uproar, the story didn’t end with the arrest of a teenager who accessed the store’s intercom.
This week, Donnell Battie, a customer in the store when the announcement was made, filed a lawsuit against the mega-retailer alleging $1 million in damages, according to Newsworks.
The suit argues that Walmart didn’t do enough to prevent teens and others from accessing the Washington Township, N.J., store’s announcement system.
According to a court filing, Battie accuses Walmart of being negligent and reckless “in allowing an unsafe and hostile condition to exist by failing to take proper measures in controlling access to the in-store public address system.”
“Wal-Mart knew this kind of activity was happening in the past and they did little if anything … to stop it,” John Klamo, Battie’s lawyer, told Newsworks.
A Walmart spokesman told Newsworks that the company apologized at the time and has since taken measures to prevent similar incidents.
Nevertheless, Battie says he’s been unable to shake the traumatizing experience, and he wants Walmart to pay up.
“Donnell Battie has suffered severe and disabling emotional and psychological harm, resulting in depression, anxiety, anger, loss of sleep, loss of appetite, paranoia, anti-social tendencies, and loss of enjoyment in life activities,” the lawsuit alleges.
Sheila Ellington, who was also at the store when the announcement was made, told NBC affiliate NBC 10 that she was sickened by what she heard.
“It was a disgusting comment,” Ellington told NBC at the time. “Once I heard that, I was absolutely shocked and appalled.”
She said a manager quickly apologized over the intercom, but a large crowd of angry customers gathered at the front of the store. Police were called by a customer, and a 16-year-old was arrested after bragging about the prank on YouTube and Facebook.
He was prosecuted for bias intimidation, according to Newsworks.