While a Mount Laurel man verbally attacked a neighbor with racist rants on Friday, he challenged his target to “come see me” and gave his address.
His conduct and the challenge were captured on video and went viral. On Monday morning, as many as 150 demonstrators gathered outside his house and chanted for him to come out.
On Monday evening, police took the man, Edward Cagney Mathews, 45, into custody, clearing a path through the crowd and marched him out of his house in handcuffs. They took him away in a police cruiser to face what police said were a fourth-degree charge of bias intimidation and trespassing.
“We want Edward!” the demonstrators, many wearing Black Lives Matter shirts, yelled before police arrived for the evening arrest. The crowd, clustered outside Mathews’ townhouse, was kept from his door by police officers who formed a barrier.
Mathews emerged briefly Monday morning and apologized, “but the damage was already done,” said Gary Frazier, 45, an activist from Camden who helped organize the protest after seeing the video Sunday night.
In a phone interview with The Inquirer on Monday evening, Mathews apologized again for his conduct and said it stemmed from a long-running housing dispute involving the homeowners’ association. Mathews also said he had been 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.”
He said his slurs weren’t meant to be racist and that he used the same language against white people. “Anybody that knows me know that I just talk like this,” he said.
The crowd began forming early Monday, demanding to speak with Mathews. Things were contentious at points when people pressed toward the front door, shouting at the row of officers.
“He said to pull up. We pulled up,” said Aliya Robinson, 43, a real estate agent who lives in a nearby development. “We’re not going to tolerate this anymore.”
Neighbors blamed Mathews for problems that began about two years ago, said Ashleigh Gibbons, 35, who has lived in the condo development for about 20 years. “He’s been harassing ever since,” she said.
Mathews denied any involvement in past harassment or vandalism.
In the episode shown in the video, Mathews stood outside a neighbor’s house and repeatedly taunted a Black man at the door and used racist slurs against him.
“Learn your law. It’s not Africa,” Mathews says as he tells the man he’s allowed to stand there.
“I was born in America, sir,” the man replied.
Mount Laurel Police drew criticism at the protest for not acting sooner. Kyle Gardner, a spokesperson for the department, said there were past complaints against Mathews, but not enough evidence to bring changes. Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina, whose office recommended the current charges, said they stemmed from the conduct in the video, in which Mathews barged onto his neighbor’s property.
“We understand the frustration,” Gardner said. “The perception was that we did nothing about it. We’re doing the best we can.”
Police said they were investigating other episodes involving Mathews and asked anyone with information to call 856-234-8300 or their confidential tip line at 856-234-1414, Ext. 1599.