Originally created 04/09/03

Man claims prejudice at pool hall



Police are investigating a man's claim that he was refused service and attacked at an Augusta pool hall because he is black.

Marion Reynolds, 27, told police that he and a friend went into Gooney's, on Wheeless Road, on Monday night and ordered hamburgers. He said owner Natheran Burns made racial remarks and told them they should go somewhere else.

"I wasn't doing nothing, just sitting there, waiting on the hamburger," Mr. Reynolds said. "He was spitting on me, and then he grabbed me around my neck."

He told police the owner choked him, eventually forcing him and his friend outside with the help of other customers.

Because of the circumstances, the Richmond County Sheriff's Office has assigned an investigator to reinterview everyone involved, Maj. Ken Autry said.

"We just want to get some clarity and understand what happened," he said.

Mr. Burns, also known as Nathan Gooney, admits to grabbing the man, but he denies it was racially motivated. He said the men were troublemakers who were sitting on the eating table and violating pool hall policies.

"I asked them to leave," Mr. Burns said. "I put my arm around his neck, and I was going to take him to the door and take him out."

He said he wasn't sure whether he made racial remarks.

"If I did, I don't know it," he said.

Mr. Reynolds, who works as a dishwasher at French Market Grille, said he had been laying tile at Fairview Missionary Church near the pool hall and decided to take a break. He said that he and Oliver Frazier III just wanted hamburgers.

He said that it was his first time at Gooney's but that his friend had been there before and had been served.

Mr. Reynolds denied that he was causing trouble.

"You shouldn't have a pick of what race of people that come in there," he said.

Larry Harris, the senior alcohol inspector in the city's licensing and inspection department, said he planned to look into the incident. He said if a crime were reported to his office, it could be taken before the Augusta Commission, which could punish the business by revoking its alcohol license.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.