Charges have been filed against a man accused of harassment, including giving the Nazi salute to a woman on Second Street in Greenport during a racist tirade last week, according to documents filed with the Southold Town Justice Court Thursday.
Gregory Kirkham, 58, of Dix Hills has been charged with second-degree harassment as well as a misdemeanor charge of second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle as a result of the incident. No future court dates are noted in the Justice Court papers.
Southold Police were dispatched to Second Street around 6 p.m. June 2 to a report of a man screaming and creating a disturbance.
According to statements given to police, a 33-year-old woman was standing on the sidewalk supervising her children playing outside when Mr. Kirkham drove his white Volkswagen Jetta down the block “at what seemed like an unsafe speed,” she told police. “I yelled to the driver to please slow down and he stopped the car and got out. The driver then approached the sidewalk shouting ‘You want to talk junk? You want to talk smack?,’ ” according to the woman’s statement.
The man then began shouting, “You guys need to go back, you’re not even from here. I’m from Brooklyn, you all live in free housing.” The report goes on to say that Mr. Kirkham, while shouting, “frequently” made a Nazi salute gesture at the woman, who is black, and her children.
Mr. Kirkham then got back into his vehicle and drove up the street before stopping again, allegedly returning to take photos of the children while shouting, “Somebody better get them under control,” and “I’m going to put her in a body bag,” while pointing at the woman, the report states.
When police arrived, the man reportedly told an officer that “these people don’t belong here” and “they are not from here.”
The officer, who noted in his report that Mr. Kirkham showed signs of intoxication, said Mr. Kirkham refused to give him his identification, instead stating “You know who I am,” and “You know who my attorney is,” before retreating into a residence on Second Street and locking the door.
Records show Mr. Kirkham is the owner of a number of residences, including an address on Webb Street in Greenport.
An attorney for Mr. Kirkham could not be reached Friday.
Penelope Rudder, who lives on Second Street, was unpacking her car when the commotion caught her attention. “I heard all this yelling and saw the look of distress on my neighbor’s face,” she said in an interview Thursday, adding that the man had moved further down the street where a brief video was taken of the incident.
The Snapchat video reposted to Facebook showed a portion of the man’s exchange with the group, which included both black and Hispanic women.
In the video, which does not capture the entire incident, the man is heard asking a group of women, “What do you pay, like $200 a month?
“Listen, these people don’t want you here no more,” he continued, gesturing to a nearby house that he then walked toward.
The video also captured profanities being hurled back at the man.
“I saw his actions and could hear the vocabulary and it was like something out of a newsreel or a movie you’re watching and not used to seeing play out in real life, much less on your own street,” Ms. Rudder said. “It tore me up that it was happening in front of children. He needs to be held accountable for his behavior.”
Fellow Second Street resident Shannon Welch described the exchange as “baffling” in an interview Tuesday.
Ms. Welch, who is black, said that while racist incidents have been documented in the area before, she was still shocked at Mr. Kirkham’s actions. “To know it’s so close, right around the corner. It’s just like, ‘wow,’” she said.
She was sitting on her porch and she heard yelling. “All of a sudden he’s saying, ‘You guys aren’t even supposed to be here,’ and racial stuff, talking about us being in low-income housing,” Ms. Welch recalled. “I was like, ‘That has nothing to do with what we’re saying to you.’ ”
She said the incident made her blood boil. “And I think that’s what he wanted,” she said.
Court documents show Mr. Kirkham’s license is currently revoked with at least a dozen suspensions and revocations dating back to 2001. The second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle charge is connected to a 2011 DWI arrest that resulted in his license being revoked, according to the document.
This newspaper also reported a DWI arrest in 2010.
Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said Wednesday that the officer who responded to the June 2 incident had still been communicating with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office to send charges to the court for a criminal summons.
“A criminal summons is another avenue to get a defendant into court without making a physical arrest, but rather a notice sent to the defendant advising [them] that they must respond to court on a certain date to answer a criminal charge,” Chief Flatley explained.
Chief Flatley could not be reached for additional comment Friday.
Sonia Spar, who co-chairs the town’s Anti-Bias Task Force said Friday said the incident was horrible and described Mr. Kirkham’s language as “vicious and bigoted.”
She too was saddened that children witnessed the altercation. “We need to show them that this is not acceptable and the community will denounce it,” Ms. Spar said.
She said nationally, according to the FBI, racially-charged incidents of harassment and hate crimes occur every hour and a half and worries far more go unreported.
“Silence does not help,” she said. “Silence harbors fear. We cannot afford to see the hate that we’re seeing in this country escalate.”