Owings Mills shops defaced with slurs

July 15, 2006|By NICK SHIELDS | NICK SHIELDS,SUN REPORTER

An Owings Mills store owned by a Nigerian native was defaced with a racial epithet, Baltimore County police said yesterday.

A racial slur, apparently written in shaving cream, was discovered yesterday morning on the front window of the Dollar Source store in the 9200 block of Lakeside Blvd., according to police and the store's owner. The store was one of three minority-operated businesses in the shopping center defaced with inflammatory words.

Sgt. Vickie Warehime, a Baltimore County police spokeswoman, said police responded to the scene and noticed businesses had been defaced. It is unclear when the incident took place, and no arrests have been made, police said.

Kayode Fanilola, 50, owner of the Dollar Source, said he didn't notice any vandalism when he left his shop about 9:30 p.m. Thursday. When he returned about 8:30 a.m. yesterday, he called police after finding the derogatory words, including a racial slur, on his window, and more on the sidewalk in front of the store.

"I believe it is racially motivated," Fanilola said. "I don't believe it's random. ... My concern is that this will be the beginning of more serious things."

Joon Park, co-owner and manager of Festival Cleaners, also found his business vandalized with curse words, the letters "KKK" and drawings. Park, who is Korean, said that his business has been in the shopping center for four years and that he has never had a problem before.

"I think it was teenagers with too much energy. If it continues, I'll have to do something about it," Park said.

More derogatory words were left on the window of Fortune China, a restaurant in the shopping center.

Last year, 81 racial, religious or ethnic incidents were reported in the county, police said. This year, police said, 42 such incidents have been reported.

In recent weeks, Howard County residents have found hate-related letters or symbols such as swastikas, "white power," or "WP" burned into their lawns with a chemical agent.

No arrests have been made in these recent incidents, Howard County police said yesterday.

Warehime said police know of no links between the vandalism in Owings Mills and other incidents.

About noon yesterday, Fanilola's 13-year-old daughter, Bola, used a cloth to remove the slurs from the store's windows. Near her was a derogatory word stained in the sidewalk.

Bola Fanilola said yesterday was the first time she had experienced racism.

"Why would they do that to us?" she asked as she continued to scrub the window. "Is it really affecting you -- our skin color?"

nicholas.shields@baltsun.com

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