Rap­per says race is why he was pep­per-sprayed in mall

The Sun Herald (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY ANITA LEE

A mall se­cu­rity guard would have asked for a photo with Justin Bieber if the singer had strolled in, but Boosie Badazz says in a re­cent court fil­ing that he in­stead got pep­per-sprayed and run out of Dil­lard’s depart­ment store be­cause he is a black rap­per.

The Ba­ton Rouge artist made the ob­ser­va­tion dur­ing sworn pre­trial tes­ti­mony in a fed­eral law­suit he filed against Dil­lard’s, the city of Biloxi, and Edge­wa­ter Mall man­age­ment and its se­cu­rity com­pany over what turned into a melee on April 9, 2017, the last day of huge beach weekend known as Black Spring Break.

Sworn tes­ti­mony in the case — from Boosie and mem­bers of his group, Dil­lard’s em­ploy­ees, the se­cu­rity guard in ques­tion and po­lice of­fi­cers — in­di­cate the se­cu­rity guard, Glen Ker­ley, re­leased enough pep­per spray in Dil­lard’s to wet mer­chan­dise and the aisles, scent the air, and af­fect em­ploy­ees and at least two cus­tomers.

Sev­eral em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing one woman with asthma, sought med­i­cal treat­ment af­ter­ward.

More than one on­looker con­cluded that Ker­ley over­re­acted. A woman then work­ing there, Tammy Cotton, tes­ti­fied that he had a rep­u­ta­tion for fol­low­ing African-Amer­i­can cus­tomers in the store and be­ing “a lit­tle more ag­gres­sive” to­ward them.

A crowd had built up around Boosie and his en­tourage in the mall and fol­lowed them into Dil­lard’s, where Ker­ley un- leashed pep­per spray three times on Boosie and his group in the per­fume and Polo de­part­ments.

Cotton said she agreed with a sec­ond co-worker who “thought the en­tire episode was un­nec­es­sary an(d) un­pro­voked, which could have re­sulted in a riot to due to the amount of peo­ple in the mall,” as one of Boosie’s attorneys, Ed­uardo Flechas of Jack­son, put it in ques­tion­ing Cotton.

Cotton, who no longer works at Dil­lard’s, said: “I don’t feel, from what I saw, as though there was any threat to ei­ther the per­sons on prop­erty or the busi­ness. The only thing that I saw was the mas­sive crowd, who was up­set about what was hap­pen­ing in that Polo sec­tion.·

“And I feel, had that si­t­u­a­tion been han­dled dif­fer­ently, it would not have es­ca­lated to what it did with the mass hys­te­ria of the crowd.”

For his part, Ker­ley tes­ti­fied that he first sprayed a man with Boosie, who turned out to be as­sis­tant and some­times se­cu­rity guard Larry An­der­son, be­cause An­der­son clenched his fists af­ter be­ing asked to leave. Ker­ley, a re­tired Biloxi po­lice of­fi­cer in his 50s, said he didn’t want a fight break­ing out in the store. They hap­pened to be stand­ing in the per­fume depart­ment.

“I’ve been do­ing this a long time,” he said. “I know what was com­ing. I’m try­ing to get ev­ery­body out be­cause you’ve got peo­ple in the store; you got, at that time there by the·per­fume, you’ve got a bunch of glass up in there. That did not need to hap­pen in the store.”

‘IT’S GET­TING TOO CRAZY’

As is his habit, Boosie de­cided to shop the day af­ter his spring break con­cert at the Coast Coli­seum. He said a group of 19 to 20 peo­ple fol­lowed him to the mall, in­clud­ing his daugh­ter, cousins and oth­ers whom he knew only vaguely.

Foot Locker shut down so they could shop, tes­ti­mony shows. Fans spot­ted Boosie, wear­ing pink, and be­gan con­gre­gat­ing out­side. By the time he left the store, 20 or more peo­ple had gath­ered, he said.

“I don’t think I went in no other stores,” he said, “be­cause when I saw the peo­ple . . . I said, “I’m fix­ing to get out this mall be­cause it’s get­ting too crazy, be­cause it’s get­ting too packed.”

Boosie planned to exit the mall through Dil­lard’s — af­ter he picked up a

Polo shirt.

In a sworn state­ment, Biloxi pa­trol of­fi­cer Matt Howard said he re­ceived a call to as­sist with an “un­ruly crowd” at the mall. He said that he fol­lowed the crowd into Dil­lard’s and asked them to leave be­cause they were causing a dis­tur­bance.

Once they had been told to leave, Ker­ley said the group was tres­pass­ing. He, too, urged them to leave.

Howard said that Ker­ley de­ployed his pep­per spray when a con­fronta­tion es­ca­lated be­tween him and the group. Both Boosie and An­der­son say that Ker­ley said, “Get out of my mall, boy,” be­fore spray­ing them.

Boosie said he hears blacks called “boy” in Mis­sis­sippi and Alabama. Some­times, he said, it hap­pens in Louisiana.

“I’ve been in ev­ery state in the world, and those are the only two, three states where you will hear ‘boy’ when you have an ar­gu­ment with some­body,” he said. “That’s old slave men­tal­ity.”

Boosie said he should have been pro­tected, not in­sulted.

“You can’t blame the celebrity for be­ing a celebrity,” he said. “And you can’t — you can’t pick him out, you know . . .

“If I was Justin Bieber, I wouldn’t have got sprayed in there. If I was an­other ac­tor, I wouldn’t have got sprayed·in that mall. He would have asked me to take a pic­ture with me, if I was — if I was white, if I was a white celebrity.”

Former Dil­lard’s as­so­ci­ate Cotton de­scribed what she wit­nessed: “Like I said, Boosie was try­ing to leave. and I saw him ad­dress, try to ad­dress Ker­ley, as though he was ask­ing, ‘Why are you do­ing this? You know, why — or why are you spray­ing me?’

“And he got sprayed again and that’s when he tried to leave the store.”

“There was not much re­sponse.· From what I saw and re­mem­ber, all (Ker­ley) was do­ing was

spray­ing.”

‘TAR­GETED IN MIS­SIS­SIPPI’

Of­fi­cer Howard said he acted only af­ter one in­di­vid­ual lunged at Ker­ley as the group was leav­ing.

Out­side the mall, a crowd at­tacked Ker­ley and Howard, the se­cu­rity guard and po­lice of­fi­cer said. Howard said he jumped on top of Ker­ley, who was be­ing beaten and kicked in the face and on his up­per body.

Ker­ley said he was kicked by Boosie. Ker­ley knew it was Boosie, he said, be­cause he saw his pink pant leg.

Over­whelmed by pep­per spray, Boosie said he was not in­volved in the fight. He said he went straight to the white limousinestyle van that had de­liv­ered him and some of the group to the mall.

Three adult males, none of them from Mis­sis­sippi, and two ju­ve­niles were ar­rested over the fight out­side, but a grand jury did not find enough ev­i­dence to in­dict them, court records show.

One charge of dis­or­derly con­duct and one charge of sim­ple as­sault against Boosie are sched­uled to be dis­missed in late Jan­uary un­less he breaks lo­cal, state or fed­eral laws.

Boosie said he will con­tinue to let fans know how he was treated in Mis­sis­sippi. His law­suit claims Dil­lard’s, mall man­age­ment and se­cu­rity, and the city of Biloxi were grossly neg­li­gent, and failed to prop­erly train se­cu­rity and pro­vide a safe place to shop.

“Now, I was done wrong, man, and I’m not go­ing to be quiet about it,” said Boosie, who has a large fol­low­ing on so­cial me­dia, par­tic­u­larly In­sta­gram, where he has posted about what hap­pened in Biloxi. Crowd videos from Dil­lard’s that show Boosie be­ing pep­per-sprayed were posted af­ter­ward on Face­book and are avail­able on YouTube.

Boosie said he be­lieves he is en­ti­tled to $30 mil­lion to $40 mil­lion in da­m­ages be­cause of the reper­cus­sions he has suf­fered. He said he is un­able to per­form in Mis­sis­sippi.

Just a week be­fore he sat down for his pre­trial tes­ti­mony in Oc­to­ber, he said, the venue for a con­cert in McComb was changed on him at the last minute and law en­force­ment set up road blocks.

“I’m get­ting tar­geted in Mis­sis­sippi,” he said. “Like, these peo­ple are on my ass. Like, these peo­ple think I’ve done some­thing in Mis­sis­sippi, and I didn’t, but go in a mall.”

WHERE THE LAW­SUITS STAND

Join­ing Boosie in the law­suit are Larry An­der­son and his cousin, Tyeon Givens. In his sworn tes­ti­mony, An­der­son said that Ker­ley “could have han­dled it bet­ter.

“Like, he could have caused a riot his self. You know what I’m say­ing?”

Givens was seven months preg­nant when she was pep­per-sprayed and fell to the ground. Her twin daugh­ters were born pre­ma­turely and have med­i­cal prob­lems, court records show.

Wood­hall Stop­ford, a doc­tor at Duke Uni­ver­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter who is a po­ten­tial witness for Givens, con­cluded af­ter re­view­ing her med­i­cal records: “Acute ex­po­sure of preg­nant women to pep­per spray can re­sult in falls with as­so­ci­ated in­creased risk of preterm la­bor and ad­verse neona­tal out­comes.”

The city of Biloxi, along with mall man­age­ment and se­cu­rity, deny any wrong­do­ing.

Ker­ley, who no longer works at Dil­lard’s, has filed his own law­suit against Boosie and Larry An­der­son. Ker­ley ac­cuses them of gross neg­li­gence, con­spir­ing to as­sault him and as­sault. In ad­di­tion to be­ing punched and kicked, he said, he was dragged across the pave­ment and had to be treated for his in­juries at a hos­pi­tal.

A set­tle­ment con­fer­ence is sched­uled Jan­uary 17 in the law­suit Boosie filed, which would go to trial first if the case does not set­tle. Trial is ten­ta­tively set for April be­fore U.S. District Judge Sul Oz­er­den.

The law­suit Ker­ley filed is sched­ule for trial in Septem­ber be­fore U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr.

Mean­while, attorneys for all sides are col­lect­ing and fil­ing ev­i­dence. One of the Biloxi of­fi­cers who re­sponded to the mall said he in­ter­viewed two wit­nesses in the store, both male shop­pers who hap­pened to be black.

They said that they saw Boosie en­ter Dil­lard’s, were shop­ping near him and were sprayed with pep­per spray for no rea­son.

“Nei­ther one of those wit­nesses wanted to be in­cluded in this re­port, but they said they wanted to give their state­ments (on my body-worn video cam­era) to ex­plain what had hap­pened in­side the store,” of­fi­cer John Lewis wrote.

AP file photo

Rap­per Boosie Badazz, at a 2014 news con­fer­ence, likes to shop af­ter con­certs. He is su­ing the city of Biloxi, Dil­lard’s and oth­ers af­ter be­ing pep­per-sprayed when a crowd gath­ered in April 2017 while he shopped at Edge­wa­ter Mall.

Cour­tesy Crys­tal Whit­more

This im­age from video shows Glen Ker­ley, then a se­cu­rity guard, us­ing pep­per spray on of shop­pers. Rap­per Boosie Badazz in pink, is pic­tured with his group.

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