Witness: Suspect was antagonized

Published 8:38 am Friday, January 7, 2011

FRANKLIN—A witness to a Dec. 27 beating outside Walmart told The Tidewater News Thursday the male victim antagonized the suspect in the checkout line in front of his children to the point that it triggered laughter from other customers.


“I thought maybe he knew him, and he was trying to get his attention,” Tishon Johnson said about what she overheard, including the victim repeatedly calling the suspect “boy.”

Franklin police said shortly after that, Khalid El-Amin Muhammad, 41, of Franklin allegedly attacked the Southampton County man and his wife from behind with a club as they left the Franklin store.

Both were treated and released from Southampton Memorial Hospital. The husband received stitches to his head.

Police did not identify the couple, but their names were listed in court records. The Tidewater News was unsuccessful in reaching them for comment on Thursday.

Police Lt. Tim Whitt said earlier this week there was no evidence of an exchange of racial slurs inside Walmart.

Johnson, a Southampton County resident, begs to differ, but was quick to say she doesn’t believe Muhammad’s actions outside the Armory Drive store were justified.

Johnson said the checkout area was crowded before the alleged 1:15 p.m. attack. While standing in a line next to the line Muhammad was in with his children — who she believes were about 9 and 10 years old — she heard a man from behind say, “Hey boy, I see you standing there with your cowboy hat, looking like you just rode (in).”

Muhammad was wearing a black cowboy hat and coveralls, Johnson said.

“I know I heard ‘boy’ and I heard it more than once,” she said. “I thought he had to know him because it was so rude and everyone was laughing.”

When Muhammad did not respond, the victim said, “I see your (expletive) up there, you need to move your (expletive) before I move your (expletive),” Johnson said.

That’s when Muhammad demanded an apology “before I whip your (expletive),” Johnson said.

“The victim laughed it off,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. His kids were looking devastated. He was just shaking his head and I said, ‘You did the right thing, sir. Some people you just have to ignore.’”

When Johnson left the store, she saw the attack in progress from a distance and heard the female victim yelling for help.

“I’m not saying that was the right thing to do, but it just seemed like he (the male victim) was antagonizing (the suspect) in front of his kids. He (Muhammad) was minding his business and had been there in line.”

After the alleged attack, Muhammad drove from the store. Police arrested him on Armory Drive.

Muhammad was charged with malicious wounding and assault and battery. He was released from Western Tidewater Regional Jail on Monday on $2,500 bond.