Man calls police on 9-year-old Black girl spraying bugs

Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 5:10 AM EST
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CALDWELL, N.J. (CNN) - A New Jersey man called police on his 9-year-old Black neighbor when he saw her outside spraying to help stop an invasive insect. He said he didn’t know what she was doing, but it scared him.

A man identified as Gordan Lawshe called a non-emergency police line in October to report a girl who was spraying spotted lanternflies in Caldwell, New Jersey. The state has a “Stomp It Out” campaign encouraging residents to kill the invasive species that is harmful to plants and trees.

“There’s a little Black woman walking and spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees,” said Lawshe in his call to police. “I don’t know what the hell she’s doing. Scares me though.”

When an officer arrived, he found a 9-year-old girl who told him about the lanternflies as her mother, Monique Joseph, walked down the sidewalk toward them. The moments are captured on police body camera.

After she’s told about the situation, Joseph indicates to the officer she knows Lawshe and that he lives across the street. She also says that someone else who saw the girl outside helped her.

“He could’ve just rang the bell,” Joseph said.

The officer says the girl is “obviously fine,” and when the 9-year-old asks if she’s in trouble, he tells her no.

After speaking with Joseph and her daughter, the officer goes to talk to Lawshe. He tells him the girl is using water on the lanternflies and that she lives nearby.

“What a weirdo,” said Lawshe in the body cam footage.

Joseph and her older daughter spoke out about the incident in front of the Caldwell town council.

“Racism, intentional or not, is still racism,” Joseph said. “I am not here to label anyone, only to share my point of view as a Black woman, a Black mother and a Black resident in this town.”

Gregory Mascera, Lawshe’s attorney, says his client has since apologized. He also said that his client and his family have received threats since Lawshe was “accused of being a racist,” which he called defamation.