Racial slurs written in popsicle sticks at townhome complex

A resident reported the incident to TPD and the federal government
Doorbell catches duo leaving racial slur on neighbor's front walk
Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 10:43 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 17, 2023 at 11:07 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A Ring doorbell from a townhome complex caught two men writing out racial slurs and inappropriate images Thursday night on the front walk of one of the buildings.

The two men can be seen laughing in the footage outside building 5C of Townhomes at 770, a complex near Tallahassee Community College. They take popsicle sticks out and carefully place them on the front walk of the building, spelling out racial slurs and a depiction of a male body part.

“Let’s break it, let’s break a stick, we’ll go like this,” can be heard from one of the men on the video.

The slur was spelled out just a building away from Duane Francis’ apartment. He found it disturbing.

“Gut reaction was that it was some kids, like bad kids,” Francis said. “Friday I had a difficult time going to sleep though because I didn’t know who did it. I didn’t know if this is the start of something that will get worse.”

Francis reported the incident to the police department but also reached out to the federal government, contacting the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to investigate it as a hate incident.

Tallahassee Police Department spokesperson Heather Merritt said the incident is not considered trespassing, vandalism or criminal mischief because the popsicle sticks left no permanent mark and the words and images were on the sidewalk. No charges have been filed at this time, but the department says investigators are still investigating.

Francis’s neighbor, Jorge Nieves, received a text from a fellow neighbor Saturday morning about profanity and “vandalism” outside people’s doors.

“I found some popsicle sticks outside my door and I didn’t think anything of it until it was explained to me that those were used to incite this vandalism,” Nieves said.

After seeing the footage, Nieves positively identified the two men in the video and said they were at his home Thursday night.

“I told them they’re never welcome back, how could you do something so stupid and hateful,” Nieves said. “Ever since then, I have been trying to knock on people’s doors and apologize to them.”

After the discovery of the slurs, complex Property Manager Lisa Carter sent out the following email Friday with the subject line “Derogatory Graffiti” to residents:

“Management has been notified that someone has written derogatory graffiti on the sidewalks by buildings 4 and 5 this morning. We are asking all residents in buildings 4 and 5 to please check your doorbell cameras to see if you have video of the culprit.”

WCTV is not identifying individuals involved at this time because they have not been criminally charged, in accordance with newsroom policy.

Francis said he didn’t personally know Nieves’ friends who were responsible, but their actions have no place at the Townhomes at 770 or in Tallahassee.

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