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Annville restaurant owner isn't charged for calling student a "n-----"

Written by Daniel Walmer, Lebanon Daily News | Jan 27, 2017 1:54 PM
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Photo by Lebanon Daily News

Annville Police held a press conference Friday morning regarding the details of the racial incident at Just Wing It in Annville.

(Annville) -- Annville Police Chief Bernard Dugan said Friday that no charges will be filed after an incident Sunday morning at Just Wing It in Annville.

Dugan confirmed that Chris Behney - who Dugan said identified himself as an owner of Just Wing It - used a racial slur during a confrontation with LVC college student Ricky Bugg, Jr., a black man. He said it was unclear whether Bugg and a friend were denied service, although it appears that they did not receive any food or beverages.

Dugan called Behney's behavior "totally inappropriate."

But, after consulting with District Attorney Dave Arnold, it was determined that those actions did not rise to the level of criminal charges, Dugan said.

Ricky Bugg, Sr., Ricky's father, interrupted the press conference to express frustration that no charges were filed.

"I'm really struggling with this, based on what I know," Bugg, Sr. said. "I beg of you to do what's' right."

Police look into racial accusations at Just Wing It
Bugg, Jr. told the Lebanon Daily News that he and his friend, Jack Gunkel, were watching television while waiting for their order when Behney entered from the back of the restaurant, saying "I don't need you n-----s. I own three other restaurants. You guys don't need to eat here."

Gunkel also told the Lebanon Daily News that, before they were served food, an employee directed the n-word at Bugg, Jr. and demanded that they leave.

Under Pennsylvania's state code, ethnic intimidation is not a crime unless another crime occurred, such as harassment or assault. Bugg, Sr. said that if that is the case, people need to demand that the law be changed. He said that if denying a person service because if their race is not a crime, that is an example of "institutional racism."

"If that's not a violation of law, then, wow. That's the time we live in in 2017, and that's what's going to be allowed in Annville, Pennsylvania? I don't think so," he said.

Bugg, Sr. said he is not assuming that Dugan did not do his job correctly. But "I want justice," he said.

"Am I upset? Yes. But I'm not some angry black man. I'm upset because I don't perceive justice based on what I've been told. And I've got a feeling that a lot of other people may feel the same way," he said.

He said he will be checking with an attorney about whether he should pursue additional legal action.

Even if no criminal charges are filed, a business that denies service to someone because of their race could face civil penalties or could open itself up to legal action by the offended parties, Kyle Kopko, a legal expert at Elizabethtown College, previously told the Lebanon Daily News.

There were also no charges filed against Bugg, Jr., who admitted he flipped over "a few" chairs while exiting the restaurant.

Dugan said that police spoke with Bugg and his friend, as well as several other witnesses, but that Behney refused to speak with police about his involvement.

The case could be reopened if more witnesses come forward, he said.

State Rep. Russ Diamond, also in attendance at the press conference, said he did not disagree with Dugan's conclusion and believes even distasteful speech is protected by the First Amendment.

Annville wrestles with race after Just Wing It incident
On Facebook, Diamond accepted an offer from Lebanon City Councilman Cornell Wilson to "educate this community and have a discussion with the community."

"We also (will) discuss the law, and maybe it might need to be changed," Wilson said.

The Annville Township commissioners released a joint statement Thursday afternoon saying the matter concerns the township government directly only through its police department, so the police department will be the "sole entity issuing future statements on behalf of the Township pertinent to this investigation."

"The township does wish to make clear that it disagrees with any suggestions that the incident as reported indicates a larger issue of deep-rooted prejudice endemic to Annville," the commissioners also said in the statement. "The Township condemns acts of prejudice and believes that the values of civility, compassion, fairness and equality in dealing with each other represent our Township community at large."

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the Lebanon Daily News.

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