Officials at the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County district attorney’s office are investigating what they described as a racially charged incident at a town Highway Department facility in Levittown, saying that they will not tolerate hate-fueled behavior.
A photograph of a gorilla was recently posted on a bulletin board at the facility, apparently referencing an African-American employee, town officials said. They gathered on April 29 outside the Market Lane building with African-American clergy members for a news conference and what they called a display of unity after the incident.
Jimmy Howard, who has been a Highway Department equipment operator for eight years, said he discovered the picture of the gorilla with the words “Jimmy’s baby picture” scrawled across the top. Town officials said the details surrounding the incident, including when the posting was first found, are under investigation.
Supervisor Kate Murray said town officials referred the matter to District Attorney Kathleen Rice and the Nassau County Police Department. Rice confirmed that she would investigate the matter as a possible hate crime.
“Every worker deserves a safe work environment free of racism, discrimination and intimidation,” Rice said in a prepared statement. “We take these disturbing allegations seriously and are investigating them to determine whether evidence can prove that a hate crime was committed.”
Murray said that town officials are conducting an internal investigation. If a perpetrator is found, he or she might be terminated, officials said.
‘Ugly and heinous incidents’
The supervisor stood alongside Howard, NAACP Hempstead Branch President Melvin Harris and the Rev. Arthur Mackey, pastor of Mount Sinai Baptist Cathedral in Roosevelt. Murray said that she and her town colleagues want to prevent hateful, violent and discriminatory acts.
“Ugly and heinous incidents such as this must stop,” she said. “We have united as brothers and sisters to say ‘no’ to hatred in our communities. We will take strong action against any employee who engages in acts of hatred. ”