Store owner responds to accusations of racial slur

By Dwight Collins | Jan 10, 2014
Photo by: Dwight Collins Village Variety was the scene of an alleged racially-charged incident Dec. 31.

Camden — A local convenience store owner accused of using racial slurs after a man urinated behind his building the night of New Year’s Eve is responding to those accusations.

Gary Fowlie, owner of Village Variety — also known as Stop-N-Go — in Camden, denies using any racial slurs but admits there was a confrontation between the two men.

"I never have in my life and never would do that [use racial slurs]," he said Jan. 9. " ... When you're accused of something you're not, it's so hard to defend yourself."

Carla Delaney of Portland said she reported to Camden Police that Fowlie used abusive language toward her son's father and her son, both of whom are African-American, during a heated confrontation at the store.

Fowlie noted a complaint also was made about the incident on Facebook, of which he is not a member. He bemoaned the one-sidedness of the post and noted locals, who may have had a problem with him in the past, fueled the fire.

"Somehow I got caught in the middle of things," Fowlie said. " ... This is my property, I'm here more than I am home."

Fowlie said the situation and resulting social media outpouring has been difficult to deal with.

"It's been a nightmare for me, my family and employees," Fowlie said. " ... It's a very odd, stressful situation but the police are handling it."

According to Camden Police Chief Randy Gagne, an incident on New Year’s Eve was reported to the police and is under investigation by Detective Curt Andrick.

“We are investigating an incident that occurred on Dec. 31 in Camden. That is all I will say at this point as it is still under investigation,” Gagne said.

At this time, no charges have been filed against either of the men.

According to a written statement Delaney also posted on Facebook, she, her son and her son's father met in Camden to exchange the child following visitation.

“I had just arrived in Camden, coming from Portland, and parked in the lot adjacent to the Village Variety," Delaney wrote. "I was meeting my 10-year-old son, Solomon, and his father, Terry, coming from Penobscot, as Terry was working in Camden tonight [Dec.31]. I saw them pull in and got out of my car to meet them. Terry hurried over with Solomon and said he needed to run inside to use the bathroom. He looked rather distressed and, I suspect, hurried due to his prostate and the long ride.”

“I was greeting my son, who I had not seen since Christmas, and loading his things in the car, when I heard a man shouting from behind the gas station,” Delaney wrote. “It was dark back there and I couldn't see what was happening, but the man started shouting louder and it became profane. I heard him yell to someone to stop urinating, although not so nice. I then realized that it was Terry he was yelling at and heard Terry apologizing and saying he really had to go and he couldn't stop mid-stream and that he was going in the snow on the ground not on the building.”

The report went on to say, “The yelling man became quite irate and stated that he was the owner of the building and was very upset to have Terry urinating behind it. Again, Terry apologized and said either there was no bathroom in the gas station, or it was occupied and that he couldn't hold it and that if the man hadn't of come back there shouting for the whole town to hear he could have finished his business and no one would be offended.”

It was at this point, according to Delaney; Fowlie became more agitated, focusing his anger toward her.

“At this point, Mr. Fowlie became extremely excited and instead of letting the matter go, began screaming loudly and increasing the tone of his profanities towards racial degradation and humiliation. I was horrified, as I was standing not very far away with my child who was watching and listening the whole time. I decided to speak up, considering that maybe Mr. Fowlie did not realize he had such a young audience present and would act accordingly if he were made aware,” she wrote. “I called out and said, ‘Guys! Guys! Calm down! There are children over here!’"

The report then states Fowlie turned and looked at the mother, looked at her son, then back to Terry, probably realizing they were the man's family.

Fowlie disagreed with the assessment and said he did not know there was a child present.

"We had words, I didn't know there was a child," he said.

Delany's statement continued, “Instead of calming down, he began to again berate and degrade Terry, calling him ‘a filthy f****** animal’. He looked at my son again, and back at Terry, and said, 'no wonder you act like f****** dirty animals, you look like dirty animals.’"

Delaney goes on to describe what was said by Fowlie directly to her.

“I spoke out again telling him to stop swearing in front of my son and that he had no right to speak to anyone like that. Mr. Fowlie turned and came towards me, got very close to my face and screamed, ‘F*** you!' directly at me and inches from my son. This is when I felt very threatened and realized that we were very likely dealing with a hostile and unstable man and tried to quickly get my son in the car before he heard anymore. Solomon was already in tears, terrified and shaking. As we turned away I heard Mr. Fowlie say something about 'f****** dirty n*****' and that he was calling the police because we were trespassing, then he walked away towards the front of the building.”

Fowlie confirmed that an employee of the store contacted police about the incident and said he filed a complaint about the urination on his property and trespassing. He said there is a "no trespassing" sign behind the store where the confrontation took place.

Delaney then left her son with his father and went inside the store to confront Fowlie about the way he spoke to her and her son’s father in front of their young son.

“My son and I were so upset after this incident. I just couldn't believe that he had to endure such awful verbal abuse that was very threatening and degrading. At one point, Mr. Fowlie was asking where Solomon and his father lived so he could 'come and find them.' To a 10-year-old child, this was quite scary. To a grown woman, the way he screamed at me was humiliating and offensive, at the very least, and abhorrently archaic probably does not touch upon how wrong this was for so many obvious reasons.”

The statement continues, “I had to get back to Portland as we had plans, but I really wanted to go straight to the police station. I had to stop a few miles down the road to calm my son and have him call his father who had continued on to his job. Solomon was afraid something bad was going to happen to his dad. The whole way back to Portland, Solomon kept saying things like, ‘I feel like I've done something wrong. What was wrong with that man and is he going to find my house? Is he going to hurt us? How come he said those things to my dad?’ I had to explain to him about racism. Here it is, 2014, and my son had to experience racial degradation and verbal abuse right here in Camden, Maine.”

Camden Herald Editor Stephanie Grinnell contributed to this report.

Comments (17)
Posted by: Christine M Starrett | Jan 13, 2014 19:25

I have been going into this store for over 30 years and have always been treated kindly and with respect! Guess what I am of African American race!! Never have I been snubbed not waited on or abused in anyway in Mr Fowlie's store. If I had been so insulted by what went on with my 10 year old child there to witness what was going on, after the first loud voice I heard my son would of been hurried inside the car, and If I was so frightened by the voices and what was happening behind the store I would of called the police based on my fear and how far it might have escalated. I wouldn't have driven back to Portland because "we had plans" my sons fears would of been more important, I would of chose to show my son the proper way to handle the situation and that would not be to stand out side, continue to listen to what was happening and yell "hey guys there are kids here"! The other thing that bothers me is once the altercation is over Ms. Delaney stated that she went back into the store to confront the owner for his words, if she was so frightened why go inside, why not get the police. She had enough time to go into the store to continue the altercation, why not enough time to do the right thing. Also if the child was where Ms Delaney states he was, he was never close enough to Mr. Fowlie to ask the question he supposedly did! It all seems a bit far fetched! Now the urinating behind a public building in such a public place.... that's a whole other issue... and if he had to go so badly how many secluded trees did he pass not to mention how many other convenient store or opportunities did he have to relieve himself before getting into such a public place!



Posted by: Reade Brower | Jan 13, 2014 13:46

RESPONSE TO Mr. Randy Sterns: I am not in the day-to-day, my comment was only as a reader who is no more "in the know" than anyone on the street. I was just defending the accusation that the newspaper and Village Soup were "shamelessly trying to rally the public outcry" with the simple premise that when a police report is filed, it becomes part of the public record and needs to be reported by the local news organizations. Police chiefs usually don't give any specific comment on ongoing investigations, but the police report is public record. I did not refer to any other media except for facebook. As a matter of course, the accuser's words were printed from the report and facebook posts and the accused is asked if they have a comment. As far as I understood by the story, there were no witnesses and it is not the papers job to judge, just to report, which I think they did a fair job of doing.



Posted by: tammy rolfe | Jan 13, 2014 10:17

If the "child" was so "upset", why wouldn't the mother have him get into the car immediately, instead of standing there letting him watch "the altercation" (if indeed it happened as she said)? My first reaction would be to shield my child from the "incident"…. not engage in it… I have a VERY hard time believing this went down as the mother describes. I don't doubt that Gary was raising his voice. I would sure as hell have been raising my voice if someone was urinating behind my building!!!!! My question is, if this was as dramatic as the mother claims, why not go straight to the police station? "She had to get back to Portland". Something isn't right about her recollection of how this all went down. I wish the best of  luck to Gary and the whole crew at stop and go!!!! People can be so distasteful when they want attention.



Posted by: Randy Stearns | Jan 12, 2014 14:38

I find it interesting that the whole Facebook blowup started over the fact that the man was unable to use a non-existant bathroom so he chose to tresspass and urinate in public. He went into a store not to purchase anything but to use a free bathroom. Why is Mr. Fowlie the bad guy for not providing a free bathroom and getting upset that tresspassers want to use his property as an outhouse. People claim it was only pee! What would have happened if he needed to s--t? Would this guy have done the same thing on private property? Who is the real victim here. I would like to see all the facts in this case before much more gets distorted by rumors.

 



Posted by: Randy Stearns | Jan 12, 2014 14:28

To Mr. Reade Brower,

I have been following this story for some time now. How many interviews have been done with all the parties involved? YOU CITE THE POLICE REPORT IN YOUR RESPONSE. tHE POLICE CHIEF WON'T COMMENT ON THE ONGOING INVESTIGATION AND mR. fOWLIE SAYS THE REPORT HASN'T BEEN RELEASED YET. hAS THE POLICE REPORT BEEN CITED OF ARE THE FACTS OF THIS STORY COMING FROM fACEBOOK? i HAVE NOT SEEN THIS COVERED IN ANY OTHER MEDIA, WHAT OTHER MEDIA ARE YOU REFERRING TO?



Posted by: Harley Roger Colwell | Jan 11, 2014 13:13

To Mr. Brower: I've read the other media, too (facebook, etc.) so in the interest of fairness, it should be noted that this is one of those times when I would actually find it a comfort to discover that my conclusions have missed the mark. I'm not so sure that they have... at least not to the degree that you suggest, but as someone who likes to explore other viewpoints, and regularly enjoys playing "devil's advocte" in any given discussion, I'm certainly open to spending some more pondering this incident and its repercussions as more information becomes available. Thank you for your comment, and thank you also for continuing to provide a timely and interesting publication. No coffee break at the shop would be complete without it!

 



Posted by: Reade Brower | Jan 11, 2014 12:45

Mr. Colwell's comments run the gamut; I find some of them to the point while others miss the mark. The newspaper story seems as balanced as one could hope for; the police report cited and the owner's comments, what more would one want in a news story? And, it is a news story when a police report is filed and it involves the sensitivity that this one does and a well known public figure, in this case a long-time business owner. Accusing the newspaper of "shamelessly using this to rally public outrage" is off-the-mark and misses the target completely. This incident has been all over facebook as well as reported to the police so it is the local newspapers' job to report it, state the facts from the police report, ask the accused for his comments and put it out there for its' readers. Plain and simple. In the end, the hope here is that both sides can be explored. Full disclosure: I am the owner of the Camden Herald, Courier Gazette and Belfast Republican Journal.



Posted by: Dale Landrith | Jan 11, 2014 09:01

I have been a customer of Gary Fowlie and the Stop & Go for over 30 years and have always observed Gary to be civil and a gentleman.  To comment on the article is to be making observations from a totally one sided viewpoint.  I am surprised that the article is printed is such detail without the reporter being able to substantiate anything other than one viewpoint.



Posted by: Harley Roger Colwell | Jan 11, 2014 08:07

C'mon, let's focus on the real issue, which is the level to which the store keeper escalated.The mom actually did a pretty good job of this. As for the reporting, seriously: I don't know which I find more wearisome and over-sensationalized, incredibly gauche racial slurs (which really only degrade the perpetrator), or people who find such a slur newsworthy, especially when such a slur completely secondary to the real story. In this case, that story would be verbal assault, intimidation and terrorizing. As for the root of the incident, it doesn't take the unsurpassed insight of the original Solomon, this young man's namesake, to understand a universally awkward struggle that plagues all of mankind: when ya' gotta' go, ya' gotta go. Any half-wit would usually extend some grace to the poor, desperately micturating wayfarer who was in such a predicament. However, for the newspaper to shamelessly attempt to rally public outrage over some alleged racial slur, shouted as an afterthought, that may or may not have even actually been what was said, the focus is completely taken off of the real issue; this being the abusive and disturbing behavior of the storekeeper who's delicate sensibilities were so offended over such a minor infraction. That behavior would be inappropriate toward anyone, of any color, and should be dealt with accordingly rather than starting a witch hunt over race issues.



Posted by: Nicole Jeanette Boutin | Jan 10, 2014 19:58

I have known Gary Fowlie all my life and have never heard him talk in a racial manner. Gary is a true gentleman who is well respected in our community. - James Raye



Posted by: Tiffany Dawson | Jan 10, 2014 18:03

That "news" comment was from me!



Posted by: Tiffany Dawson | Jan 10, 2014 17:48

This is news? I'd put my money on Fowlie, not someone peeing on his building. I Am in that store every day have NEVER heard that language. Nonsense!



Posted by: Robert Wightman | Jan 10, 2014 17:08

Anyone who travels with children knows when they have to go to the bathroom. That should have been the first stop the car made. Stopping in a convenient store parking lot under a No Trespassing sign shows no consideration for the business owner nor the child.

Abusive language is never a mature response but urinating in parking lot of someone's business is an insult. Who will wash the smell away?

 



Posted by: glen r thompson | Jan 10, 2014 16:27

I read this so-called report twice and in detail.  I'm sorry but it is way too professionally and  carefully worded for it to hold much truth.  I would like to also add there is no excuse for this man Terry's behavior in front of his son.  Had he been acting in a proper and respectable manner none of this would have happened.  Miss Delaney needs to move on.

 



Posted by: Susan Sinclair | Jan 10, 2014 16:02

EVERY disagreement can become "racist". The store owner probably couldn't believe that someone would do such a thing on his property. It's gross, nomatter who is doing it. Did he overreact and now regrets it? Oh, probably. Was that a gross, inconsiderate thing to teach your kid to do? Yes.



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo | Jan 10, 2014 12:55

It's hard for me to believe that Mr. Fowlie would act in such a manner. When I worked retail I assisted him many times and was nothing but a gentlemen.



Posted by: Catherine Cooper | Jan 10, 2014 12:32

The whole incident was wrong as it is stated here in the article but peeing behind a very public store in a very trafficked area is wrong. I am not sure where he should have used the bathroom as I know the public landing has bathrooms but I am not sure of the open hours.

Would a white man have been called out for peeing in public? i am sure yes, he would have. It escalated but the start of the incident is the man peeing behind the building.where it says No Trespassing and is so public and in an exposed intersection.



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Dwight Collins
Dwight Collins is a reporter/photographer for The Camden Herald.
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