A Dairy Queen restaurant in Zion, Illinois, has been shut down, following an incident in which franchise owner Jim Crichton called a biracial customer a racial slur.
On Jan. 4, Crichton reportedly called 21-year-old mother Deianeira Ford and her children "n*gger" after Ford asked for a refund after not receiving her full order at the drive-thru window.
When Ford asked for the store owner's name, he responded with "Bill Clinton," before adding "Better yet, I'm Donald Trump." According to a now-deleted Facebook post by Ford, as quoted in the Lake County News-Sun, Crichton also told the mother to "go back where [she] came from."
Following the incident, Ford's daughter asked what the racial slur meant. In a telephone interview with the News-Sun, Ford called the event "embarrassing" and was upset it had taken place with her children present. "That was the hardest thing," Ford said. "He did it with my children in the back."
Ford, a full-time college student, has a 2-year-old daughter and 5-month-old son, the News-Sun reported.
A police report about the incident, as quoted in the News-Sun, corroborated Ford's description of the incident. After responding to the incident and finding Ford "visibly upset and crying," the police report describes Crichton as "angry and ... pacing continually back and forth 180 degrees around me. He was also slightly shaking."
When asked about the incident, the police report notes, Crichton "boastfully told me he would be happy to go to jail over the issue and proudly admitted to calling Ford a slur." Crichton also, according to the report, said that he is "fed up with black people" and used slurs "freely" to describe them.
Crichton later changed his story, however. In a comment to the News-Sun on Thursday afternoon, Crichton said, "It's 99% lies. This is blown so far out of proportion it's stupid. Her order was confusing, and I told her, 'Here's your money back.' This is so far blown out of proportion."
Police returned to the Dairy Queen later on Wednesday afternoon following a subsequent incident in which local Black Lives Matter activist Clyde McLemore arrived at the store to speak with Crichton. The store owner now denied that anything "racial took place" in his incident with Ford, despite the fact that the police officer was the same as the one who had responded to the initial incident.
"[Crichton] continued to contradict his story about (Wednesday) morning to me several more times and was becoming angered that I did not believe him," the police report explains, as quoted in the News-Sun.
On Friday, however, Crichton issued an apology for his actions. "I take full responsibility of my actions," he said in a statement. "As the owner of this restaurant, I should be a model for others. My actions were inexcusable and unacceptable."
Zion Police Chief Stephen Dumyahn told the News-Sun that he was "disgusted and discouraged" by Crichton's behavior. "I reached out to Miss Ford to tell her that this does not represent the diverse community of Zion," Dumyahn said.
Local mayor Al Hill also expressed his disappointment over the incident. "It's embarrassing for the city," Hill told the News-Sun on Friday. "It doesn't reflect our community. It gives us a black eye, it's very unfortunate. In 2017, you wouldn't think we would have to deal with these types of things."
Ultimately, though, no charges against Crichton were filed. In a statement released by Dumyahn on the city's behalf, the police chief "recognized the rights of business owners and managers to operate their business as they choose, under the law." However, the statement added, "we do not condone the inflammatory language that was used or the way this customer was treated."
Dairy Queen, however, was quick to disavow the actions of the franchise owner. In a statement released via Twitter late Friday night, the corporation described Crichton's behavior as "inexcusable, reprehensible, [and] unacceptable" and stated they would be immediately terminating Crichton's franchise rights.
The Zion Dairy Queen, spokesman Dean Peters told the News-Sun, will remain closed and would only reopen as a Dairy Queen under a different owner.
Ford's attorney, Lashonda Renea Amen, told the News-Sun that Ford was "very happy and pleased with the outcome" following the location's closure, adding that Amen appreciated Dairy Queen's "ability to work with us."
Black Lives Matter, too, was pleased with the incident's outcome, and a protest against the location that was initially planned for Saturday was changed to a celebration.
"This satisfies Black Lives Matter," McLemore told the News-Sun.