Store owner responds to accusations of racial slur
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.
Dwight Collins is a reporter/photographer for The Camden Herald.
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