An East Texas man has filed a lawsuit that has a whole community talking.
DeWitt Thomas says a Big Sandy grocery store refused him service -- because Thomas did not want a black man handling his groceries.
And after the grocery store manager banned him from the store, Thomas filed a hand-written lawsuit, saying the store violated his religious rights.
We want to warn you that some of the language in this story is racially charged, so it may be offensive to you.
Thomas says he had been shopping in the Two Rivers Grocery and Market Store for more than 20 years before the incident happened on March 5.
"When I was going through the checkout line, a Negro had came to sack my groceries. My creed encompasses Vedism, which is precedent to Hindu. And I made it clear that I did not want someone black sacking my groceries," said Thomas.
Manager Keith Langston said that sacker, 17-year old Aaron Menefee, and the cashier on duty were shocked by Thomas's request.
"It took them both by surprise and they thought he was kidding but he kept up. And then he started saying it was against his creed and religion," Langston said. "But you know, they ended up waiting on him and he left. But once I heard the story, I told him we were going to criminal trespass him the next time he came in."
According to Thomas's complaint, that next visit came just two days later, on March 7. Thomas says Langston told him he, quote, "couldn't do the racism" and locked him in the store. Thomas's complaint says that Langston then called the Big Sandy Police Department, which issued Thomas a criminal trespass warning, though Thomas told us today he had the freedom to go back to the store.
"By law, I have equal access," Thomas said. "I have freedom of religion and he is not supposed to refuse me regardless of my religion, and that is what he has done."
"He said it was against his religion, which I don't understand his religion, but it has nothing to do with his religion why I trespassed him. I trespassed him because of the way he was talking to the young man and actually he scared the cashiers," said Langston.
Thomas has filed his complaint in the U.S. Eastern District Court in Marshall and is looking for damages to be rewarded by a jury trial. Langston and his lawyers have filed an answer saying "the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted."
As for Aaron Menefee, he says he's ok.
"It honestly, it didn't bother me, because you have to deal with it at school, everywhere. So it didn't bother me. But it did surprise me that he just said it like that," he said.
And he knows how he'd handle the situation if he ever met Thomas again.
"If I see him again, I'll just say, Hey, how's it going?" Menefee said.
Thomas said this is not the first lawsuit he has filed because of this issue.
He said he settled the other case out of court, and says he would drop this case if Langston would remove the criminal trespassing warning against him.
No court date has been set for this pending lawsuit.
Tuesday, September 16 2014 7:31 AM EDT2014-09-16 11:31:48 GMT
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