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Police: Man yelled slurs during attack on woman

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

A Jonesboro woman, who is also a U.S. Army soldier, is recovering from injuries sustained when a man allegedly beat, punched and kicked her recently at a Morrow restaurant while yelling racial slurs at her.

The incident allegedly occurred while Tashawnea Hill's 7-year-old daughter watched the events unfold, according to Capt. James Callaway, of the Morrow Police Department.

On Sept. 9, around 7:30 p.m., Morrow Police responded to a report of an assault in progress at the Cracker Barrel located at 1458 Southlake Plaza Drive, according to Callaway.

Troy Dale West, 47, of Poulan, Ga., is charged with misdemeanor battery, misdemeanor disorderly conduct, and felony cruelty to children, according to a police report.

Hill, 35, is African American and West is Caucasian, according to the police report.

The incident occurred as Hill was entering the restaurant with her daughter, and West was leaving the establishment, Callaway said in a statement.

As West was leaving, the exit door came close to striking Hill's daughter, Callaway said.

"The victim [Hill], by all witness accounts, politely asked Troy Dale West to be careful. At this point ... West became enraged and began to beat the victim in front of her 7-year-old daughter," Callaway said in the statement.

"He threw her [Hill] to the ground and hit her in the head with his fists and feet. During the exchange ... West could be heard screaming racial slurs toward the victim," Callaway said.

West told police that he hit Hill because she spit on him, according to the police report. However, witnesses told police that Hill did not spit on West, according to the police report.

The incident was captured on the restaurant's surveillance cameras, according to the report. The case has been referred to the FBI Civil Rights Division for a possible violation of federal hate crime laws, Callaway said.

"I - just about a day or two ago - regained feeling in my right arm," Hill said during a phone interview Tuesday. "My right arm and my last three fingers were numb. I haven't been able to use them," she said.

Hill said she was treated at Southern Regional Medical Center the night of the incident, and released from the hospital that night, but has had to continue with several follow-up doctor visits.

"I haven't been able to sleep, and my daughter either," she said.

Hill said she is a sergeant in the Army, based at Fort Gillem in Forest Park. She said she works in logistics, where she orders, receives and issues supplies for the base, and has been in the military for 10 years.

"I've never experienced anything like this," she said. "I can't even express the words of what I felt when I looked around and saw so many people standing around watching while I was getting beaten, and not coming to my aid," Hill added.

"The black female that works at the establishment, I remember her yelling first, and saying 'I'm going to call the police.' Then a white female said [to West] 'no, no you can't do that,' and 'get off of her,'" Hill said.

Hill said she is concerned about how the incident will affect her daughter.

"My daughter had just gotten out of ballet lessons, and I was taking her to get something to eat so I could get her ready for school the next morning. She said she should have or could have protected mommy. She said she tried to open the door and help me," said Hill. "I hope this doesn't affect her future. She's said she wants to be a doctor, or wants to be the first African-American, female president."

"It is unfortunate that Tasha Hill was brutally attacked inside Cracker Barrel, in part due to Cracker Barrel not having reasonable security in place to protect business invitees," said Kip Jones, Hill's attorney. "It never should have happened, and Cracker Barrel never should have allowed it to happen," Jones said.

A Cracker Barrel official said the restaurant is not to blame for the alleged incident.

"It is awful when something like this happens anywhere, let alone in our store," said Julie Davis, corporate communications director for Cracker Barrel's home office in Lebanon, Tenn.

"Cracker Barrel takes appropriate security measures and maintains excellent relations with local law enforcement officers," she said. "Cracker Barrel has been in contact with Ms. Hill since the incident ... [and is] of course cooperating with the authorities on the investigation. Indeed, Cracker Barrel called the authorities when it happened. The incident had nothing to do with Cracker Barrel or the way it operates its businesses, other than it happened to occur on our premises."

Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said her office is reviewing the case.

"I will review all the evidence, the police reports, the video and make a determination as to whether additional felony and misdemeanor charges should be presented to the grand jury," she said.

West was transported to the Clayton County Jail following the incident. He received bond with conditions on Sept. 10, according to court records, and was released on Friday.

He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Sept. 28 at 3 p.m., in Clayton County Magistrate Court, according to court records. No attorney was listed in online court records as representing West. Attempts to contact him at phone listings in Poulan Tuesday evening were unsuccessful.