The family of a 6-year-old boy from Oregon say their son was the victim of a racially motivated attack by a neighbor who allegedly threw lit firecrackers and called him the N-word.
Chay Lopez said her stepson, who is half black, was playing outside their apartment at an apartment complex in West Salem, Oregon over Independence Day weekend.
The incident occurred the same weekend an Oregon State Police officer was accused of using white supremacist hand gestures towards Black Lives Matter protesters, KGW reported.
Lopez said while the child was playing, his neighbor, identified as Marcus Ray Wilson, threw a firecracker in the direction of his stepson.
Lopez told KGW he saw Wilson light five or six more firecrackers and throw them at his child, who screamed that he had been burned.
“I walked up and said, ‘Are you throwing fireworks at my son’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I’m throwing fireworks at your N-word son. “
The racial slur directed at her stepson enraged Lopez and onlookers who were outside and witnessed the entire incident.
Rachael Griffith, who was visiting family at a nearby apartment, said she was furious that Wilson felt the need to use the N-word, especially towards a child.
“I never felt the rage I felt the second I heard that word…” Griffith said.
Lopez, Griffith and another woman began fighting in the parking lot with Wilson, with all three sustaining minor injuries, according to a report by the Oregon Daily News.
Griffith said she was punched several times in the back during the melee, while the unidentified woman who was also involved was punched in the side of the face.
Lopez said he suffered a bruised eye, but was just glad his stepson wasn’t seriously injured.
Wilson was arrested by Salem police and charged with recklessly endangering another person, intimidation and disorderly conduct, all of which are misdemeanors. He was taken to jail and then released, the Oregon Daily News reported.
Newsweek contacted the Salem Police Department to comment on Wilson’s arrest, but did not hear back before publication.
Meanwhile, Lopez, who said he was angry that Wilson was released so quickly, added that he also feared a similar attack could happen in another family.
However, Lopez believes this terrifying Fourth of July weekend experience can serve as a tool to teach others about racial injustice and bigotry.
Protests calling for an end to racial injustice and police brutality have gripped the country in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in police custody.
He and his family will also have a serious discussion about race relations, Lopez said.
“I want people to take care of each other,” he said. “Defend each other.”