Ricky Barnes, a Black Avondale resident and U.S. Air Force veteran, was hoping to get the refrigerator in his garage fixed on the afternoon of January 20. What he got instead was an irate repairman threatening to "beat" him like a "fucking slave."
And he got it on tape.
Barnes tells Phoenix New Times that his refrigerator had stopped working — it wasn't keeping items cool — so he called his warranty company, Select Home Warranty, and they dispatched a technician from the Goodyear-based appliance repair company J&H Appliance and Microwave Repair to come out and fix it.
The technician, a white man, arrived at around 4 p.m. on January 20 and Barnes met him at the front door. Barnes got a bad vibe from him immediately.
"When I opened the door he gave me that look like, 'How are you able to live here'?" he said. "We get it all the time... It’s almost like he saw a Black man and was like, 'Huh, what are you doing answering the door?'"
Barnes led the man to the garage. Once the garage door was open, the technician noticed the two-door E400 Mercedes-Benz car that was parked inside and gave Barnes the same cynical look.
The technician quickly told Barnes that he couldn't fix the refrigerator and told Barnes because it is in the garage. Barnes told him that he had moved it from his house to the garage and that it was covered by his warranty company. Barnes offered to call the company to get confirmation that the refrigerator was covered. They went back and forth about the issue "about seven times," with the technician getting progressively agitated before he said, "I'm not fixing shit," according to Barnes.
Barnes said he felt threatened. He told the man to leave his house and that he was going to report him to the warranty company. As the technician was walking away, he turned to Barnes and said, "I will kick your ass" and "I’ll beat you down like a mother fucking slave," Barnes said, adding that the man repeated the phrase several times.
When the technician was in the driveway, he turned around again and told Barnes, "I'll be back" and started approaching him. That's when Barnes grabbed a nearby shower curtain rod "for protection" and started recording the incident. (He accidentally set it to audio-only before activating the video as well a moment later.)
"I'm in fear of my life now. I've got my wife, my two kids in the home," he said.
In the audio and video recording, which is embedded below, the technician can be heard repeating the racial slur.
Ricky says, "You going to threaten me in my own house?"
The technician yells, "I will beat you like a mother fucking, fucking slave."
"You going to beat me like a slave? Oh wow," Ricky responds.
The technician repeats the slur: "I will beat you like a fucking slave."
Barnes can be heard saying, "Why did this company send me this trashy mess here," and "This motherfucker threatened my life" while approaching the technician's van and filming the car's license plate. The technician then yells at him to get away from the van. They go back and forth a little more, with Barnes saying, "I’m in my own property — this is my property, yeah, get the hell out of here, don’t be threatening me."
Eventually, the technician leaves. Barnes said that at one point during the heated exchange, his 9-year-old son heard the yelling and opened the garage door.
"He was trying to come out. I said, 'Get back in the house'," Barnes said. "No 9-year-old should have to experience that."
Later, Barnes phoned up the technician's company, J&H Appliance and Microwave Repair, to discuss the incident. (He also recorded these calls.) He asked the first person who answers the company's phone line for a manager and for the technician's name. The staffer gave a name that sounded like "Jared" for the technician, but eventually hung up. Barnes called back and a different person, who identified himself as a manager named Bill answered the phone. Bill refused to give Barnes the technician's name and argued with him about whether or not the warranty covers repairs for Barnes' fridge.
Toward the end of the phone call, Barnes brings up the technician's conduct.
"You guys follow the guidelines, but does that mean once your technician comes into my home, does that mean he needs to disrespect me once he comes to my home," he said.
Bill noted that Barnes grabbed a pole and approached the technician, who had taken a picture of Barnes.
"You’re lucky the technician didn’t call the police on you," he commented.
"What your technician is not telling you is he said he was going to beat me like a slave. That’s why I grabbed the pole," Barnes said.
Eventually, Bill ended the conversation after referring Barnes back to the warranty company.
Barnes filed a report with the Avondale Police Department. He now has lawyer Garrick McFadden helping him, and support from community members who plan to hold a rally demanding justice because of the incident on Monday at Avondale City Hall.
According to a copy of the police report, which McFadden provided to New Times, a neighbor interviewed by the responding police officer said she "observed her neighbor arguing with a repair man" and that she overheard the repair man say, "I will beat you down like a slave."
The officer eventually called up the technician's employer, J&H Appliance and Microwave Repair, and got ahold of the technician, who identified himself as "Peter" and confirmed that he was the technician involved in the incident.
"Peter advised me there was a disagreement with the homeowner as he was declining service due to the refrigerator being placed in the garage and did not want to pay additional charges. Peter stated the homeowner got mad, pointed his finger towards Peter's face and Peter discontinued service by leaving the residence," the police report reads. "Peter then stated the homeowner grabbed a pole from the garage and attempted to go after him."
The technician denied that he used racial slurs during the phone call with the officer, and said that he had a witness "inside his van," but did not provide any information about that person. The officer inquired about the photograph that he had reportedly taken of Barnes with the rod, but then Peter "disconnected the phone call."
"Peter did not want to provide his full name, only identified himself as 'Peter'," the report states.
William Penny, a detective with the Avondale Police Department, told New Times that he is investigating the case and that it is still active. He declined to comment further. An attempt to reach the technician at J&H Appliance and Microwave Repair was not successful.
Barnes said that he and his son are going to "counseling" as a result of the incident. He also said that he fears for his life because the technician hasn't been arrested yet.
"This guy is still walking the streets of Arizona, he said. "I believe the police department has enough information to arrest this individual. I'm just like, 'Wow, how is he able to walk around?'"
As for the technician's company, Barnes said that they are complicit.
"If any company is going to try to protect anyone who has used racial slurs, [they] are just as equal as the individual who came by my home," he said. "I can’t believe that place of business is in operation."
The rally is scheduled for 1 p.m. on February 1, the first day of Black History Month. Members of the West Valley NAACP, plan to be there, along with civil-rights activists including Reverend Reggie Walton and Pastor Warren H. Stewart, Jr.
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