Nation of Islam Security Guards Accused of Beating Boys at Mall
DALLAS (AP) _ The owner of a shopping mall where four young suspected thieves were allegedly stripped naked and beaten by a gantlet of 50 Nation of Islam members encourages security guards to handle trouble without police.
``We try to sit these kids down and tell them, `This is a black mall. Do you realize what you are doing? Why would you steal from a black man?,‴ Gaoloku Lagbara said Wednesday.
Four members of the black Muslim group who were working as Westcliff Mall security guards were charged with kidnapping.
They are accused of beating the black youths, then taking them to a Nation of Islam meeting room at the mall and forcing them into the gantlet, where they were whipped with belts and bamboo canes during a four-hour ordeal.
Three brothers, ages 16, 13, 12, and a 13-year-old friend were treated for bruises and welts on their backs, buttocks and legs. They were released to their parents. No charges were immediately filed against them.
``I was crying,″ one of the 13-year-olds told The Dallas Morning News. ``I was screaming and calling for my mother. I was afraid they were going to break our hands. That’s what they said they were going to do.″
The guards called the boys’ parents after the beating, and the parents called police and paramedics, authorities said.
Bobby Lott, stepfather of the 13-year-old friend, said the guards told him they didn’t call police because ``we took it up in our own hands. We don’t call on our brothers.″
``If I had done (my stepson) like that I would have gone to jail,″ Lott said. ``That’s child abuse.″
The unarmed security guards told police the boys admitted breaking into the mall and stealing $300 and a cash register from an antiques store after the mall closed Sunday, Sgt. Jim Chandler said.
The guards said they rounded up the known troublemakers Monday after they returned to the mall, and that two of them confessed.
The youngsters said they were taken to a room in the mall where Nation of Islam members had gathered for a class. The organization has an office in the mall, whose stores are predominantly black-owned.
Guards Derick Hopkins, 27, Stanley Stephen, 23, Zavier McFerguson, 30, and Tyrone Miller, 31, remained jailed today on $100,000 bail each. No assault charges have been filed because the boys can’t identify anybody in the gantlet, Chandler said.
The mall owner said parents and police overreacted. ``In reality no one gives a darn about these raggedy little underprivileged kids,″ Lagbara said. ``We’ve caught them several times stealing from us. The one time they’re going to get spanked everyone is in an uproar.″
He hoped the parents would not press charges against the guards.
``I hope for a stalemate. If they bring charges against the security force I will press charges against there kids,″ he said.
Nation of Islam members often work as unarmed security guards, including in housing projects in Baltimore, New York, Buffalo, N.Y., Washington and Chicago, where the organization has its headquarters.
Jeffery Muhammad, minister of Nation of Islam Mosque No. 48, with headquarters at the mall, did not return calls to his office. A woman who answered the phone at the regional Nation of Islam office in Houston said no one was available for comment.
The mall’s board of directors hasn’t decided whether the Nation will continue policing the site.