O’FALLON, Mo. — A man was arrested last week after police said he assaulted a woman in O’Fallon, Missouri, in a racially charged confrontation that was briefly caught on tape.
Lawrence A. Gamache, 60, of O’Fallon, was charged with fourth-degree assault following the episode Thursday in which police say he accosted Rashyra Jordan-McGill, 20, of north St. Louis County.
Jordan-McGill, who is Black, was working as a home health aide and was walking with one of her clients on Brassel Court when she was approached by an angry Gamache, according to Jordan-McGill and an O’Fallon police report.
Gamache, who is white, acknowledged in an interview Wednesday with the Post-Dispatch that he used a racial slur after he approached Jordan-McGill when he said he became upset that she wasn’t attentive enough to her client, a neighbor who’s an older man with limited mobility.
Police said Jordan-McGill told them that a profane Gamache yelled at her, crossed the street and then hit her across the face and pushed her. Her statements were backed up by her client, police said.
“I was shocked,” Jordan-McGill told the Post-Dispatch. “And I’m real sensitive, so I was just crying.”
Gamache told officers he was angry that she was talking on her phone as she walked with her client, according to the police report.
“I was concerned about his well-being,” Gamache said Wednesday. “I’m concerned about his falling backward, with her being on her cellphone 10 feet in front of him.”
He continued, “She and I got into a verbal discussion over this, and it escalated to the point that I used the ‘n’ word, which is not against the law. I never touched this woman at all. I didn’t put my hands on her, period.”
Gamache later used the racial slur again when he told officers they needed to lock up Jordan-McGill, the police report said. Officers admonished him for his language but he said they couldn’t tell him what he could or couldn’t say, according to the report.
Jordan-McGill showed officers a five-second video she recorded with her phone. The Post-Dispatch obtained the video but is not publishing it because of its vulgar content.
O’Fallon police said it’s unlikely Gamache will be charged with a hate crime because his actions appeared to be motivated by concern for his neighbor rather than race.
Gamache claimed he was struck by Jordan-McGill, which she denied and which her client corroborated to police. Gamache expressed skepticism that Jordan-McGill’s client was lucid enough to know what happened.
Gamache said he was “shocked” when police arrested him. He posted bail and left jail a short time later. Since the incident, he’s moved from Brassel Court and said he’s “in hiding” because his life is being threatened on social media.
“I think police are taking the easy route out,” he said. “They don’t want this to become a racial thing . . . This is so upside down, it’s unbelievable.”
He added, “I think there’s a tension in the air, a racial tension, and they’re going to (believe) the Black person versus the white person in an iffy situation.”
Jordan-McGill said she hopes Gamache faces further consequences. She denied walking far ahead of her client or neglecting him, and said she’s speaking with a counselor about the experience.
“He had no reason putting his hands on me and cursing at me, or saying anything to me, period,” she said. “If you felt like I was in the wrong, he could have said something to (my client).”
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