August 3, 2012.
Hawkins man files lawsuit, claims grocery store violated rights
BIG SANDY (KYTX) - A Hawkins man files a lawsuit in federal court against a Big Sandy grocery store.
The lawsuit filed in Marshall centers around a man who says his religious rights were violated.
The man, who is white, said a person of another race handling his food is against his "creed" or religion.
It was March 5th, a Monday night, when DeWitt Thomas said he walked into Two Rivers grocery store in Big Sandy to buy groceries.
In handwritten court documents, Thomas said he approached the checkout and was unhappy with the person he saw bagging his food.
"I said I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're saying," said Willema Raburn.
Willema Raburn was the cashier that night and Aaron Menefee was the man bagging his groceries.
"He said it was against his creed for a black person to touch his groceries," said Aaron Menefee
According to the lawsuit, Thomas told both Menefee and Raburn he didn't want a "negroidal" or a black person touching his food. Thomas said it was against his creed.
"I just froze. I couldn't say nothing," said Raburn.
Menefee called someone else to the front to bag Thomas's groceries. The manager that night told Thomas to leave.
"I told him that God loves everybody and that God don't see no color," said Raburn.
Thomas said he returned to the store two days later to buy drinks. Menefee once again tried to bag Thomas's groceries.
"When she hand me his drinks, the guy said it was against his creed for a black person to touch his groceries," said Menefee.
This time, Keith Langston, the owner of Two Rivers grocery was there. Langston called police and had Thomas given a warning for criminal trespassing.
"I made it perfectly clear we weren't going to have that racism in here against anybody," said Langston.
We called DeWitt Thomas. He agreed to meet us at the CBS 19 studio to share his side of the story.
"I may have stepped on some toes. They may have been offended. But, they should be. This is suppose to be America. If they want cultural diversity, let's give them cultural diversity," said Thomas.
Thomas said his religion is a form of Hinduism.
"My creed encompasses vedism, and vedism in it's etymology means knowledge," said Thomas.
In court documents, Thomas uses verses from the Old Testament of the Bible that speak about people of color.
He views them as "untouchable."
"I consider my race, my family. I love my people and that's why I'm doing what I'm doing," said Thomas.
Thomas said what upset him the most was being locked in the store against his will when police were called.
"I was locked in the store under the color of the law. Which is false imprisonment," said Thomas.
But, Langston said he locked the door because it was closing time.
"That's not the case, he was just trying to explain his viewpoints to me and I was listening to him," said Langston.
Now, there's a lawsuit on the table. Thomas demanding a jury trial.
"I feel like I'm going to win, I'm going to win," said Thomas.
The people involved wondering why it all had to come to this.
"No, that's uncalled for," said Menefee.
So far, no court date has been set. Thomas did say he would drop the lawsuit if the store manager dropped the criminal trespassing charge.
Mr. Langston said that won't happen because he doesn't want Thomas in his store.
Comment: Do they sell extra strength aspirin in Portland?