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Hundreds of people protest outside Glenn Heights business after owner calls customer N-word

"The word came by mistake," said owner Mustafa Shawky. "I regret what I said."

GLENN HEIGHTS, Texas — Updated at 12:01 a.m. Thursday with response from business owner.

At least 200 people gathered outside an auto care business in Glenn Heights Wednesday, after the owner called a customer the N-word.

Leonardo Allen said the confrontation occurred after he used the business' bathroom and dropped a napkin in a toilet, and possibly forgot to flush it.

Allen said the owner approached him outside and began using racial slurs and saying sexually vulgar things about Allen's mother.

A small group of protesters arrived around 10 a.m. at the business located near Interstate 35E and Bear Creek Road, but the crowd size had grown to around 200 by 2 p.m.

"As you can see, the people is upset with it," Allen said. "I'm so mad, I can't even show how mad I am."

Employees locked themselves inside the business until police escorted them to their cars. As the employees drove away, some protesters vandalized the cars, while other people attempted to keep the crowds away from the vehicles.

Late Wednesday night, Discount Auto Care owner Mustafa Shawky said he would speak to the media at a Glenn Heights church a couple miles from his shop.

He arrived 20 minutes late with his daughter and initially refused to answer questions, relying instead on an explanation offered by community activist Thomas Muhammad. 

Muhammad said he was a long time friend of Shawky's and confirmed he used the racial slur. 

"He was speaking to character and it came out in a way that people felt offended," Muhammad explained. "As a black man I know what it means."

Muhammad added that that the "character" Shawky was describing with the usage of the word was "misfit, lazy, dumb, doing things wrong."

"He hopefully has learned from this that you don’t do that," Muhammad said.

Eventually, Shawky himself stepped to the microphone and apologized.

He claimed Allen dumped stacks of paper towels in the toilet and when Shawky approached him about it, Allen began cursing, which Shawky said is against his religion. 

"I tried to control myself," Shawky said. "It slipped my mind. I was so angry because I cannot even curse at him the same way he cursed me. The word came from my mouth and I never meant it more than it is a character."

"I am sorry. I didn’t mean to insult anybody," he said.

Shawky said he had never used the term before. 

"The word came by mistake," he said. "I regret what I said."

Hours before Shawky spoke, Glenn Heights Mayor Pro Tem Sonja A. Brown said anger is not an excuse for using a slur.

"If because you’re angry, you start to hurl racial slurs, that means you’re comfortable using those racial slurs," she said.

Brown confirmed that Allen and the owner were initially cited for disorderly conduct, but a city spokesperson said those citations were dismissed by police Chief Vernell E. Dooley.

Protesters vow to return to the auto shop Thursday.

City Council Member Jeremy Woods, Sr. encouraged people to make a statement against racism by spending money elsewhere. 

"Hit them in their pocket," he said. "Hit them where it really hurts. You’re not gonna use terms like that here."

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