WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — An arrest has been made in the case of a racial comment being made over the public-address system at a Walmart store in southern New Jersey, police said.
The Washington Township Police Department said on its Web site early Saturday that an arrest has been made in a "bias incident" at the retail store. The posting said police and Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office will announce the arrest at a midday news conference.
Police and prosecutor's office spokesman Bernie Weisenfeld declined to comment Saturday.
A male voice came over the Walmart public-address system Sunday evening and calmly announced: "Attention, Walmart customers: All black people, leave the store now."
Although a manager quickly apologized for the remark over the intercom, many customers expressed their anger to store management.
Officials for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said the announcement was "unacceptable." The company said in a statement Friday that it determined a customer may have been responsible for it; spokesman David Tovar declined further comment Saturday until after the news conference.
The company said it has already updated the store's intercom system to prevent a similar incident from happening again.
It was the latest in a series of problems the retailer has had in its dealings with minorities and women.
There have been several past instances of black customers claiming they were treated unfairly at Walmart stores, and the company faced lawsuits alleging that women were passed over in favor of men for pay raises and promotions.
In February 2009, the retailer paid $17.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in its hiring of truck drivers.
And the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the company in May 2009, claiming some Hispanic employees at a Sam's Club subsidiary in California were subjected to a hostile work environment. That suit alleges managers failed to stop repeated verbal harassment, including the use of derogatory words, against employees of Mexican descent.
However, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has said the company has worked hard in recent years to show it cares about diversity.