A Stow couple no longer feels safe in their own home after someone scribbled a racial slur commonly directed toward African Americans on their apartment door.
Esayla Williams said this incident is the latest in a string of racially-motivated conflicts at the upscale Hidden Lakes apartment complex. Williams also claims complex management has failed to act and address the escalating issues.
On Monday morning, Williams and her boyfriend returned to their apartment after a weekend getaway. They were welcomed home by the “N-word” scribbled in orange marker and stretching across the width of their door.
“Ive been called that word before. I’ve never had it hit home to my front door like that,” Williams said.
She immediately burst into tears, she said. Those tears then evolved into a whole series of emotions.
“It was traumatic. I don’t even know how to explain it,” Williams said. “I’ve never been through anything like that before.”
Monday’s discovery was a culmination of months of harassment by other tenants and the inaction of complex management, Williams said. Just weeks after the black couple moved into their apartment last May, the harassment followed, Williams said. Neighbors would call police to complain about dogs barking. Not only that, Williams said neighbors would call 911 to falsely claim that domestic violence was going on inside the couple’s apartment.
According to Stow police records, officers responded to domestic violence complaints four separate times in 2017, but none of those calls resulted in any arrests because the complaints were unfounded. On one occasion, Williams said neighbors called 911 claiming Williams’ boyfriend was beating her. The couple was in Hawaii at the time. There was a point during the ordeal that only police believed harassment was occurring — not the management company in charge of the complex, Williams said.
“[Management] wouldn’t even acknowledge our pain. They wouldn’t even acknowledge our struggle,” Williams said. “Once we realized that our backs were against the wall, we just tried to bare down and grin through it.”
Then came Saturday's incident with the "N-word."
According to a Stow police report, Williams and her boyfriend, Diarre Moss, told responding officers that her upstairs neighbor had a verbal argument with the couple in which the neighbor used the racial epithet. Williams said the neighbor confronted the couple about noise coming from their apartment. The noise, however, was caused by new tenants moving into a different apartment unit.
The incident led to a heated argument. Williams and Moss left and stayed somewhere else for the weekend. When they returned on Monday, the epithet had been written on their door.
“All of the other tenants were out to work, which means they walked past it and they saw it,” Williams said. “They didn’t feel the need to report it or felt uncomfortable. Everyone felt like that’s how we should be labeled. That’s who we were. That’s who we are. That [epithet] should be on their door and everyone should see that. That’s who lives there.”
Williams alerted property management, who had maintenance come by to paint over the door. However, management has not addressed the issue with other tenants in the building, Williams said. Additionally, management did not take action during the alleged 911 call harassment.
“They would not believe that what we said was going on was actually going on. As we tried to report the false police calls, they told us there was nothing they could do to stop people from calling,” Williams said. “Its hard to pay rent somewhere where you feel like you’re being terrorized.”
Williams said her boyfriend’s name is on the lease, which expires in June. However, the couple wants to break their lease without incurring the penalty, which is equivalent to two months rent.
The complex’s leasing office was closed Tuesday, because staff was attending a corporate event, according to a sign posted on the front door. News 5 attempted to reach the corporate office for the management company, JVM Realty. Those calls were not returned as of Tuesday evening.
“It’s gotten to a whole another level. To be honest with you, we’re afraid," Williams said. "How could you not be?"