Gordon Lawshe, the Caldwell Republican Party’s co-chairman and treasurer, called the cops on a 9-year-old girl who was spraying lanternflies to save trees in her neighborhood. In the aftermath of the incident, Bobbi Wilson’s mother, Monique Joseph, stated that race was a factor in their neighbor’s October 22 call to the police, according to The Progress.
Bobbi’s grandmother planted one of the trees she was attempting to save. On November 1, Joseph spoke out about the incident at a mayor and council meeting.
“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.”
Joseph obtained a recording of the conversation between Lawshe and the police. And, while she believes the officer who responded to the scene handled the situation well, she believes the incident has harmed 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 and her two daughters attended the meeting. Hayden, her 13-year-old daughter, also spoke to the audience at the meeting. “Not only was she doing something amazing for our environment, but she was also doing something that made her feel like a hero,” Hayden explained. “I can assure you that Bobbi will never 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.”