Tow truck driver denies aiming racial slur at Burns

Man accuses delegate of racially offensive language in encounter

August 21, 1999|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

The tow truck driver accused by a black state delegate of using a racial slur denied that yesterday, saying Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr. used racially offensive language in their encounter Monday night.

Michael Stansbury, 47, said that when he arrived at the Staples store at Old Court and Reisterstown roads in Pikesville Monday night, Burns and his wife were waiting by their blue van.

Burns said Tuesday that the two men exchanged words and Stansbury called him "n ....."

Yesterday, Stansbury denied that, saying, "That word is not in my vocabulary."

Stansbury, who said he is slightly retarded and has speech and motor difficulties stemming from a childhood head injury, said he was writing the towing ticket when Burns became impatient and began shouting at him.

"He didn't want to give me enough time to complete it," Stansbury said. "I asked him twice to walk away. The second time he got a little loud. The third time he got louder."

Stansbury said he decided to leave and told Burns that.

Stansbury, who is white, said that Burns dismissed him with profanity that included a reference to Stansbury's race.

Stansbury said he left and called the dispatcher at AAA in Baltimore, which had sent him to the Burns vehicle. "I told him, `I'm not going to service this member because he's using racial slurs. ' " Stansbury said the dispatcher asked, "Did you?" and Stansbury replied, "No."

That call was taped by AAA, and Stansbury's attorney, Barry Watson, said yesterday that a transcript supports Stansbury's account. Myra Wieman, an AAA spokeswoman, said that the tape is confidential. A transcript has been sent to Burns and Watson, she said.

Stansbury said yesterday that he has been suspended without pay from Flash Towing, the AAA contractor where he had worked since July.

"Nobody who knows him believes he did this," said Flash general manager Mike Layman.

Stansbury is a devout Christian who doesn't use profanity, Layman said. He said Stansbury has often been praised by customers during his five weeks at Flash.

Nonetheless, Layman said yesterday that he expects he will have to let Stansbury go.

"If AAA drops me because of Michael, I'll have to close my doors," Layman said. "I'm going to have to lay him off. This business is at stake."

Wieman, the spokeswoman, said that AAA, after receiving a letter of complaint from Burns, asked Flash not to send Stansbury on any AAA calls until it had investigated the matter.

"We are reviewing the station [Flash Towing] and our relationship," Wieman said. "We have no reason to disbelieve Delegate Burns."

Burns stood by his account of the incident and disputed the driver's account.

"First, he doesn't know what he said. Second, I know what he said," said Burns.

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