TAMPA, Fla. -- It was supposed to be a night of fun in downtown Tampa. “One of my friends was in town for his birthday celebration,” said Raymund Berry.
Berry, a University of Tampa academic adviser, and four of his friends visiting from Virginia Beach went to dinner at Taps Restaurant when he says a homeless man asked them for money. He said they politely declined.
“We acknowledged him and I vaguely remember hearing him say something afterward but not in a negative or demeaning way,” Berry said.
It happened while they were at the restaurant. On their way home, Berry and his friends stopped to get gas, and that’s when they noticed Berry’s car, a 2015 Dodge Dart, had been keyed.
The N-word was engraved in the hood.
“The first thing that came to my mind was shock and disbelief. Anger set in very quickly, sadness set in very quickly.”
The incident wasn’t caught on camera and Berry doesn’t know who did it, although he assumed it may be the homeless man.
Berry filed a police report and later posted his experience online. The response was immediate. His post was shared more than 150 times.
“It’s one of those things, you can truly be appreciative of; that there are other people who don’t have to know you to know what you’re going through.”
As we were finishing our interview with Berry, a woman walking her dog noticed him and said, “I just donated to your Go Fund Me page. I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
She was a complete stranger.
Berry is very thankful for the generosity of others. As of Tuesday night, he was more than halfway to reaching his $3,000 goal to rid his car of the racial slur.
While the vandalism is apparent, for Berry it’s more about the issue and spreading awareness.
“I want people to know this stuff is still going on. So, what is our response as a community?”
Berry’s response is to fight it with love.
”I’m encouraged to continue that fight and continue educating as many people as I can, talking to as many people as I can, spreading as much love as I can because that’s really the only thing that will drive this out. We can drive this out. I’m very hopeful we can take these kinds of instances and make it better for our children, our grandchildren, our family members."
Tampa police are asking for anyone with information about this incident to call them. Police say surveillance video from a nearby hotel failed to provide evidence. As a result, the investigation is now listed as inactive.
If you’d like to help Berry get the racial slur off his car, visit the Gofundme page (warning: image is graphic)
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