66-year-old resident at Friendship Manor target of racially-oriented hate mail

Posted at 9:28 PM, Aug 08, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-08 23:33:06-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- For one resident, things aren’t so friendly at Friendship Manor, which is a subsidized housing complex in Salt Lake City.

Jack Coleman has received inappropriate and hurtful notes of a racial nature posted on his door. He received the most recent one Friday morning. Now, the Salt Lake City Police Department is investigating it as a possible hate crime.

Coleman, 66, said he’s the only African-American resident at Friendship Manor. The housing complex holds hundreds of tenants. Problems for Coleman began immediately after he moved into his unit at Friendship Manor in April. His first encounter in the dining room left him in shock.

Coleman said: “[Another resident] said, ‘Well when did they start moving in n------ like you?’ I went, ‘Excuse me, what did you say?’”

The harassment didn’t stop there. Coleman said he was the target of numerous racial slurs.

“This kept escalating and escalating, and I kept going to management and I kept complaining, I kept writing incident reports one after another, and one after another, over and over again, and it just kept getting worse,” he said.

Coleman has received hate mail from another tenant, and he said he worries about what might come next.

Behind tears, Coleman said: “If someone is that desperate to leave those kind of notes on my door, what else would they do to me?”

We asked to speak with someone from the management office at Friendship Manor. We were referred to their attorney, Lester Perry.

He tells FOX 13 News: “I have on my desk and I'm ready to immediately evict and to seek court orders on an immediate eviction of the person who is posting these notes. Or persons, we don't know if it's one, we don't know if it's two.”

Perry explains that racial slurs and harassment are violations of the lease and could be grounds for eviction from Friendship Manor.

He adds, “You need to realize that we're talking about residents that grew up in a different generation than you are. Many of them are 70s and 80s.”

Jeanetta Williams, President of the NAACP Salt Lake City chapter, said age isn’t the issue here.

“It's an excuse,” she said. “Everybody in that age bracket he's referring to do not that think that way. That person or persons may have been raised that way, they may want to think that way, but there's laws in place that forbids people being discriminated against.”

Perry said management has taken action against one resident who admitted to using a racial slur against Coleman, but would not give details--which would violate that person’s privacy rights. He said he’s been the attorney representing Friendship Manor for nearly two decades and there’s never been a situation like this one.

Meanwhile, Coleman said he’s scared for his life. He spent Thursday night somewhere else besides his unit at Friendship Manor.