Gordon Lawshe, the co-chairman and treasurer of the Caldwell Republican Party, called the police on a 9-year-old girl who was spraying lanternflies to save trees in her neighborhood. In the wake of the incident, Bobbi Wilson’s mother, Monique Joseph, said that race played a factor in the October 22 call their neighbor made to the police, The Progress reported.
One of the trees Bobbi was trying to save was planted by her grandmother. Joseph opened up about the incident during a mayor and council meeting on November 1.
“The morning of October 22, our neighbor called the police, identified himself and reported, ‘There’s a little black woman walking, spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees. I don’t know what the hell she is doing, it scares me though,’ and included that she was wearing a hoodie,” Joseph said at the event.
“It is sickening and scary to hear my neighbor use triggering words that have resulted in the deaths of too many Black and Brown children and adults at the hands of police. ‘Black,’ ‘hooded’ and ‘I’m scared’ – those are trigger words.”
The recording of the conversation between Lawshe and the police was obtained by Joseph. And though she said the officer who responded to the scene handled the situation well, she said the incident has negatively impacted her daughter.
“Based on everything that has transpired, I am concerned and outraged. I want this to be a teachable moment for our town on racial bias, diversity, equity and inclusion and how we together can ensure going forward little black and brown children in this town can feel safe in this community,” said Joseph.
“This is a very personal matter for my family. This is not political and I am not here for a party. I am here for my 9-year-old, my 13-year-old and myself.”
Joseph and Lawshe have been neighbors for over seven years. “Racism, intentional or not, is racism,” Joseph said. The mayor of Caldwell, John Kelley, said he was “troubled” by the incident, adding that he was “so sorry” Joseph’s daughter “had to experience that and thank you for sharing.”
“This is not something that is a part of Caldwell, it’s just not. It saddens me and I’m glad you shared this with us and with the public,” he added.
Joseph attended the meeting with her two daughters. Her 13-year-old daughter, Hayden, also addressed the attendees at the meeting. “She was not only doing something amazing for our environment, she was doing something that made her feel like a hero,” said Hayden. “I can confidently assure you that Bobbi will not forget this.”
Joseph also said Lawshe refused to have a dialogue with her after she asked Caldwell police to arrange for them to meet at the police station, The Progress reported. She also said they’re yet to talk to each other.
“I just wanted to have a conversation with him as a neighbor, as Bobbi’s mom and as the woman who lives across the street from him,” Joseph said. “He needs to understand what he did. Whether he is aware of it or not, he needs to understand the hurt it has caused.”
Following the incident, the West Caldwell Police Department invited Joseph and Bobbi to the station for a tour. They also spoke on matters pertaining to race relations.
“They wanted her to know they heard about what had happened and she has no reason to be afraid and to know what they do as a police department,” Joseph said. “They also do really good things. They are a service of help, not just to stop the bad guys. It was a really good experience and it was impactful.”