A nine-year-old Black girl was outside testing a TikTok recipe for a spray to kill spotted lanternflies, an invasive species, in her New Jersey neighborhood when her neighbor, a white man, Gordon Lawshe, called the police.
“There’s a little Black woman, walking, spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees on Elizabeth and Florence,” Gordon Lawshe told police on the morning of Oct. 22 in a 911 call obtained by The Daily Beast. “I don’t know what the hell she’s doing, scares me though.”
The child’s mom, Monique Joseph, addressed how Lawshe’s “racism and implicit bias” put her nine-year-old in a dangerous situation at a Caldwell Borough Council meeting held on Nov. 1.
“Racism, intentional or not, is still racism,” Joseph told the meeting’s attendees. “It is sickening and scary to hear my neighbor using triggering words that have resulted in the deaths of too many Black and brown children and adults at the hands of the police: ‘Black,’ ‘hoodie,’ [and] ‘I’m scared.’”
“My neighbor’s words put my daughter in harm’s way. His words and actions were unconscionable, and the impact of the aftermath of this incident will not be kept secret,” said Joseph. “My 9-year-old daughter was afraid to go outside her front door the next day. She was afraid that her neighbor, [whom] she knows has a reason, unknown to her, to call the police on her.”
“Based on everything that has transpired, I am concerned and outraged. I want this to be a teachable moment for our town on racial bias, diversity, equity and inclusion and how we together can ensure going forward little Black and brown children in this town can feel safe in this community,” she added. “This is a very personal matter for my family. This is not political and I am not here for a party. I am here for my 9-year-old, my 13-year-old and myself.”
The Huffington Post reports that Greg Mascera, Lawshe’s attorney, claims his client wasn’t racially profiling the nine-year-old when he called 911.
The lawyer also reportedly said, “the mother’s assertion that [her daughter is now] afraid of cops is absurd.”
Caldwell Mayor John Kelley apologized to Joseph for the incident during the town hall meeting, according to NJ.com’s coverage.
“After reflecting on the story and learning more from the police report, it is clear that a line was crossed. My heart goes out to Monique [Joseph] and her two girls,” Caldwell Mayor John Kelley told The Daily Beast.