01/16/09 — Racial slur about Obama found on downtown Goldsboro wall

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Racial slur about Obama found on downtown Goldsboro wall

By Anessa Myers and Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on January 16, 2009 1:46 PM

A racial slur about President-elect Barack Obama was discovered spray-painted on the back wall of a downtown building Thursday, but by this morning the evidence of a potential hate crime had already been removed.

The graffiti was written on the back of the City of David Apostolic Church at 136 Center St., next door to the Wayne County Democratic Headquarters.

Goldsboro officials didn't know about the incident until late Thursday afternoon, and some did not find out about it until this morning.

City Manager Joe Huffman, who has been on vacation this week, said this morning that he hadn't yet heard about the incident.

But after speaking with Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan and police Chief Tim Bell, he said he became "absolutely disgusted."

"It's totally disgusting, inappropriate and intolerable," Huffman said. "This is a time to build unity. That is our commander in chief. ... I don't buy the division thing. I have seen too many times people doing things for all the right reasons."

Huffman added that he wanted to make it clear to all Goldsboro citizens that this type of behavior is completely unacceptable.

"We won't tolerate this in the community," he said.

Huffman said the police chief didn't know about the graffiti until Thursday afternoon, and that the assistant city manager didn't hear about it until this morning.

Investigations Sgt. Chad Calloway said the vandalism report is now being investigated as a possible hate crime.

"When you have something that might be deemed a hate crime, there's a form that we fill out that goes to the (State Bureau of Investigation)," Calloway said.

Investigators also are trying to determine if any video surveillance of the area exists, or if there might have been actual witnesses to the crime.

Police initially regarded the report as a simple vandalism after an East Walnut Street man passed the church and called police.

"On the actual report, the officer showed it as nothing but a vandalism. It was written up as an actual report of vandalism," the sergeant said.

Authorities said they had not paid much attention to the report until local television stations covered the incident.

Police listed the damage to the church at $200, and confirmed that the graffiti had already been removed from the building.

Huffman said other city employees told him that members of the church cleaned up the graffiti.