A black Georgia couple is suing their neighbor and the city of Gainesville because they said the neighbor continuously harassed and threatened them and the city failed to intervene, the Associated Press reports.
Gregory and Sophia Bonds claim their neighbor, Roy Turner Jr., who is white, started harassing them the day they moved into their rental home just north of Atlanta. The couple says he verbally assaulted them every time he saw them and made ape noises and imitated an ape walk.
Turner, a former employee with the city’s solid waste department, admits he harassed the couple.
“I said ‘porch monkey. That’s just a joking-around term,” he told the AP. He said he wasn’t aware of the lawsuit when contacted by reporters.
The Bonds family was forced to move after Turner became violent in May, they allege. They had company over and Turner came out into his yard with a baseball bat and began whacking a tree aggressively while yelling slurs.
In their lawsuit, the Bonds family cites a provision in the Fair Housing Act of 1968 that was written to prevent things like cross burnings and bombings, the AP reports. The provision makes it illegal to “coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with someone who is exercising or enjoying any right guaranteed by that law.”
According to the AP, the Bonds family has three teenagers and wanted to live in a house so that the family would have a yard and more space. But according to their lawsuit, things with Turner became ugly quickly. He hurled racial slurs at them regularly and Sophia Bonds says she was afraid of him. They are also suing the city because they say the city knew about Turner’s actions and didn’t do enough to stop them.
Police were called in 2012 after Gregory Bonds and Turner exchanged words, and Turner responded by pointing a loaded rifle at him, the AP reports. This resulted in a call to police and a stand-off between police and Turner that lasted several hours. When police entered the home, they used a stun gun on Turner because he wouldn’t follow orders.
Despite this, Turner pleaded guilty to only misdemeanor charges and was fined $200 and given 12 months probation which included these caveats: no violence or insults toward the Bonds family, weapons on his property or drinking and possessing hard liquor, according to the AP. Even the county Solicitor General’s office, which can only file misdemeanor charges, expressed outrage.
“I was greatly outraged at the behavior that Roy Turner exhibited and at the behavior that this family and their children endured,” Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard told the AP.
The district attorney’s office had declined to press charges.
According to the AP, Turner had a record of run-ins with the public and co-workers. After his 2012 arrest, Sophia Bonds asked the city to keep Turner from working the route that picked up the Bonds family’s trash.
He was suspended after his arrest but allowed to return to work under the condition he not use derogatory language or get into arguments. But after continuing to have confrontations with co-workers and the public, he was fired in October.
According to the AP, Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said he grew up with Turner and said Turner has a traumatic brain injury from a car crash in the 1970s, but he has never known him to be violent.