Nation of Islam Guards Arrested in Mall Beating of Boys
DALLAS (AP) _ Four youngsters suspected of stealing $300 and a cash register from a store were forced to strip naked and run through a gantlet of about 50 Nation of Islam members who beat them with belts and bamboo canes, police said.
Four members of the black Muslim group who were working as security guards at the shopping mall were arrested on kidnapping charges. They are accused of beating the boys, then forcing them into the gantlet for more abuse during a four-hour ordeal.
``They were whipped because they did wrong,″ police quoted one of the guards, Derick Hopkins, as saying.
The brothers, ages 16, 13, 12, and a 13-year-old friend were treated at the scene for bruises and welts on their backs, buttocks and legs. They were released to their parents. No immediate charges were filed against them.
The unarmed security guards told police the boys confessed to breaking into the mall and stealing the money and cash from an antiques store after the mall closed Sunday, police Sgt. Jim Chandler said. The guards rounded up the boys Monday after two returned to the mall, police said.
The youngsters said guards beat them, ordered them to undress and beat them again before taking them to a room in the mall where Nation of Islam members had gathered for a class. The Muslim organization has an office in the mall.
In the room, the boys said they were forced to run naked through a gantlet of Nation of Islam members, police said.
``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.
Hopkins, 27, and fellow security gaurds Stanley Stephen, 23, Zavier McFerguson, 30, and Tyrone Miller, 31, were arrested Tuesday. Each was charged with four counts of aggravated kidnapping. They were jailed on $100,000 bail.
``The boys can’t identify anybody in the crowd in the assault. So it’s very unlikely any of them will be charged. We’re trying to work on that angle,″ Chandler said.
Nation of Islam members also work as unarmed security guards elsewhere, including housing projects in Baltimore, New York, Buffalo, N.Y., Washington and Chicago, where the organization has its headquarters.
The mall’s board of directors hasn’t decided whether the Nation will continue policing the site.
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.
Mall general manager Henry Carter said the boys live next door and have been seen throwing rocks and stealing in the past.