MUNCIE, Ind. — “I just didn’t think it would happen to us,” explained Marquel Bond.
He and his friend Jayleon Jones had multiple discussions with parents about how young Black men are sometimes treated differently and how to respond if it happened to them.
Then, it did happen to them.
On September 21, the 17-year-old teens missed the morning bus to a jobsite. The pair are students at Muncie Delta High School enrolled in a construction training program where the class annually builds a home.
One of the rules for students in the program is that they must ride the bus. Missing the bus means missing instruction that day. Suddenly, Bond and Jones had hours to kill that morning.
Bond said, “We ate first. We had McDonald’s and next to McDonald’s is Rural King. So, we knew they had tools and stuff, clothes that we could use for the classes.”
Both had been in the supply store multiple times before, especially Jones who father is a plumber, “I’m in the store almost every week because my dad always goes there.”
But from the moment the teens walked into the store, they were shadowed.
“We went to every corner of the store,” said Bond.
“Everywhere we went, the same lady was there,” added Jones.
Asked why they thought the woman was shadowing them around the store Jones said, “Probably because we were Black.”
The visit in the store stretched into an hour-plus. The teens say occasionally the woman following them took pictures. At the end of the visit to the Rural King, Jones asked the woman what she was doing. Bond recorded the conversation on his phone. A portion of that conversation went like this:
((WOMAN EMPLOYEE)) “You might find someplace else to hang out because they’re watching you bad. They’re watching. Everybody’s watching you.”
((JAYLEON JONES)) “They can watch, like we’re not doing nothing.”
((WOMAN EMPLOYEE)) “You’re taking pictures of stuff. That means you’re staging.”
Staging, as in identifying items to steal. Both teens say they took one picture, a selfie and vehemently deny taking anything.
Later that afternoon, the mothers of the teens returned to the store to ask why their sons were treated like a presumed criminals. The conversation with what appears to be a Rural King manager included this:
((RURAL KING MANAGER)) “I wish they would have went up front and let them know so we could have had everybody stop.”
((SASHA KING, MARQUEL BOND’s MOTHER)) “But they shouldn’t have to though.”
((RURAL KING MANGER)) “No, they shouldn’t.”
King posted the two videos to Facebook asking people to boycott the Muncie Rural King store. The posts caught the attention of Muncie city government.
“For them to get treated this type of way is unacceptable,” said Yvonne Thompson, executive director of the Muncie Human Rights Commission.
Thompson said the incident was a complete failure of employee training and policy adding, “Rural King has got to realize Black people have money, too.”
Thompson also facilitated communication between the families of the teens and legal counsel for Rural King.
The families tell FOX59 that they’ve been told by an attorney for Rural King that three employees at the Muncie store have been fired.
Rural King general counsel Jason Hortenstine did not confirm the terminations, instead provided a brief statement:
“We are aware of the allegations and are investigating. Rural King always strives to take care of its customers and associates, has a clear policy prohibiting discrimination, and anyone engaging in such conduct would be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.”
The teens have not returned to the store, but their experience being racially profiled has not soured their view on humanity.
“I don’t feel like everybody’s like that. I just feel like the people who are are maybe stuck in the past,” said Jones.
Bond added, “Some people just have the wrong idea about Black people.”