South Jersey man charged in racist incident that went viral will remain behind bars
Burlington County Prosecutor Scott A. Coffina called conduct by a man who taunted neighbors in a racist rant "despicable" and promised a full investigation to "help the community heal."
A South Jersey man accused of harassing his Black neighbors in a racist rant that went viral remained in jail Tuesday and prosecutors plan to keep him in custody.
Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina released documents outlining the charges against Edward Cagney Mathews, who was arrested at his Mount Laurel home Monday night. Coffina promised to “help the community heal and move past the incident.”
Mathews, 45, appeared for an initial hearing in Superior Court on Tuesday. A judge agreed to hold him,pending a detention hearing Friday at 9 a.m.
“It is difficult to overstate how vile and despicable the conduct by this defendant towards his neighbors was on Friday night,” Coffina said in a statement. “No one should ever have to deal with such hatred thrown in their face anywhere, but especially on their own doorstep.”
Mathews used racial slurs and called several Black neighbors “monkeys” in confrontations that escalated on Friday, according to the affidavit of probable cause for his arrest. He allegedly approached the front door of one victim in a “threatening manner” and said he wanted to “run” Blacks out of the townhouse development, the documents say.
While verbally attacking a neighbor, Mathews challenged his targets “to come see me” and gave out his address in the 3600 block of Gramercy Way in the Essex Place condominiums. The incident made national headlines after a video of the incident went viral and hundreds showed up Monday, chanting his name and calling for his arrest.
In an interview with The Inquirer, Mathews apologized and said his conduct stemmed from a long-running housing dispute involving the homeowners’ association. Mathews also said he was drunk.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting an encounter like that and certainly wasn’t expecting to disrespect anybody,” Mathews said. “Let me be clear: That is no excuse for what I said, but I lost my temper.”
According to the summonses and records released Tuesday, a Black woman called police to Essex Place on July 2, saying Mathews was harassing her, shouting and cursing. The woman told the police he called her a monkey.
“This being in reference to the race of the victim and trying to intimidate her,” the report said. The woman was crying and visibly shaken and pleaded with police to beef up security around her home, the report said.
Mathews, according to the report, was captured on a ring doorbell walking past the woman’s house with his dog. The woman said Mathews had called her racial slurs on several occasions in recent months, but those incidents were not captured on camera, the report said.
“He was seen looking directly at the camera and thrusting his hips in a lewd motion while laughing,” the report said.
On the same day, Mathews tried to enter the home of the homeowners’ association president, who is Black, police said. His wife called the police and a Black male neighbor who responded to the residence, where he was confronted by Mathews in the incident caught on video that went viral.
Mathews, according to the affidavit, can be seen on at least three occasions chest-bumping the man, spitting and attempting to “kiss or lick” him to escalate the confrontation. Coffina praised the victim for showing restraint.
In another incident, police said they found Mathews in a verbal altercation with four Black neighbors on a corner near his home. An officer persuaded Mathews to leave the area, the report said. As he walked away, the report said, Mathews yelled to bystanders, “Did you know monkeys live here?”
According to the probable-cause statement, other victims reported ongoing issues with Mathews “and how they felt like nothing can or is being done to stop the problem. They all felt some level of harassment and threats.”
State Sen. Troy Singleton (D., Burlington) announced that Coffina will launch an independent investigation into any incidents involving Mathews. The prosecutor will also review how Mount Laurel police handled the July 2 disturbance, he said.
Neighbors say the close-knit community with neatly manicured yards was peaceful until Mathews moved in several years ago. The trouble began about two years ago and exploded last weekend, they said.
Activists from around the region showed up Monday, protesting for hours in front of Mathews’ rented townhouse. A line of police officers kept the crowd a few feet away.
Mathews was escorted by police from the two-story house in handcuffs. The crowd cheered and pelted him and police with plastic water bottles and pepper spray. Mathews was charged with bias intimidation and trespassing.
Coffina said authorities are seeking information on other possible incidents involving Mathews. They also are trying to identify protesters who hurled the debris at police and damaged several nearby homes, he said.
Information can be submitted to the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office at firstname.lastname@example.org, to the Mount Laurel Police Department at email@example.com, or by calling the Mount Laurel Police Department’s Confidential Tip Line at 856-234-1414, extension 1599.