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NAACP leader calls stabbing of Conway teen 'hate crime'

City of Conway
Rogers Plaza in the City of Conway is seen in this file photo.

The Faulkner County NAACP held a community meeting Monday night in response to a violent altercation that took place in Conway over the weekend.

According to the mother of one victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, a group of teenagers went to Maly’s, an entertainment facility in Conway, Saturday night. Soon after the group arrived, the mother received a phone call from her son who said he’d been stabbed in the face.

She described leaving her home in a rush as soon as she received the call. Once she arrived, she said the police had yet to arrest members of the group responsible for her son's injury.

“It was horrible and I don’t want anyone to experience this,” she said. “They wanted to go to the new arcade and have fun. They didn’t even get the chance to go inside. These people walked out the door and were harassing these kids.”

She said the altercation quickly turned violent. The group of adults appeared intoxicated and began fighting the group of teenagers, who ranged in age from 13 to 16.

“My son was not the only victim, but when you go to the scene and you see your child bleeding, you don’t know what to do.”

The mother took her son to a hospital where he received 12 stitches.

Videos of the altercation began circulating on social media late Saturday. The videos depict the chaos and violence of the night, including the intoxicated adults using racial slurs against the group of mostly Black teens and the physical attacks that left one teen with facial wounds.

By Sunday afternoon, the Faulkner County NAACP organized an emergency meeting for the community for Monday evening. Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry and Conway Police Chief Chris Harris were invited to the meeting to address the community's concerns, but did not attend. At a City Council meeting on Tuesday, officials addressed their absence and said they were at a different meeting concerning the event.

Faulkner County NAACP President LaTonya Chante Duncan called the altercation a “hate crime” and asked the community members to stand together in the wake of the event.

“This is an event that should not happen ever again. We have to be united,” Duncan said. “We have to be as one."

Duncan said events that leave people traumatized and injured cannot be tolerated.

“We have parents and children that will suffer for the rest of their lives because of this one-day incident,” she said. “Hate crimes must not be permitted in Faulkner County. This was a hate crime, nothing less.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines hate crimes as motivated by bias against race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. The Conway Police report acquired by Little Rock Public Radio did not define the offenses as motivated by bias.

The police report names several offenders in the incident. 62-year-old Michael Kennedy of Quitman and 52-year-old Chucky Hartwick of Heber Springs are charged with 2nd degree battery.

Kelli Kennedy, also of Quitman, was taken into custody Saturday night for public intoxication. Stephanie Hartwick is also listed in the police report, but has not been charged with anything at the time of writing. Chucky Hartwick turned himself in to Conway Police on Monday and Michael Kennedy turned himself in on Tuesday.

Correction: a previous version of this article reported Jared Hall of Quitman is charged with 3rd degree assault and battery. A Conway Police report mistakenly listed Hall as present at the event.

Maggie Ryan is a reporter and local host of All Things Considered for Little Rock Public Radio.