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Man jailed after hurling racial slurs at a TV reporter

A Virginia man was arrested after a street confrontation in Charleston, SC, in which racial slurs were directed at Steve Crump, a veteran reporter at Charlotte TV station WBTV and maker of award-winning civil rights documentaries.

Brian Eybers, 21, is in the Charleston County Detention Center with a Friday court date on charges of disorderly conduct and possession of drug paraphernalia, a glass pipe like that used to smoke crack, police said.

Crump said Tuesday that he was in Charleston Oct. 8 to cover Hurricane Matthew. He had completed an interview and was returning to his news van when a man on the street began making an iPad video of him.

“He was doing commentary of the neighborhood,” said Crump. “Then he starts off saying, ‘There’s a black guy walking around here, no he’s a slave, no he’s the n-word.’ 

Crump, 59, the great-great grandson of Kentucky slaves who has produced hours of specials for public TV about civil rights in addition to his reporting work for Channel 3, walked up to Eybers and asked him what he’d just said.

“I went from zero to 60 like that,” Crump said.

“Steve isn’t going to let something like that lie,” said Dennis Milligan, WBTV’s news director.

In the video, Crump is heard asking the man to spell the word he was just called.

“N as in Nancy, I as in indigo, G as in grant,” he began.

After Crump turned to leave, Eybers stood in front of the news van, blocking it from leaving. Crump called police.

WBTV photographer Devin Futrelle filmed the confrontation. Police arrived and arrested Eybers. A report by Charleston officer A. Bricker said Eybers admitted calling Crump the racial slur.

Eybers, who listed a home address in Arlington, Va., is a guitarist in a band called Face Control. It was not immediately clear what he was doing in Charleston.

Mayor apologizes for city

John Tecklenburg, the mayor of Charleston, contacted Crump later the day of the incident to apologize on behalf of the city. Tecklenburg was already familiar with what happened – it occurred in front of his mother’s house in the 100 block of Broad Street.

Crump said the site of the confrontation also was only about 10 blocks from Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, better known as Mother Emanuel, where nine people were shot to death in a racial killing in 2015. Crump covered that attack and was sent back by WBTV in June to cover the one-year anniversary.

“Yet you still have this kind of mentality being carried out where the wounds are very fresh and very real,” said Crump.

In 2013, Crump was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Medallion, which honors a Charlottean who has worked to promote racial equality and social justice. This year, Crump was honored in Washington as journalist of the year by the National Association of Black Journalists.

“You could safely call Steve the leading civil rights reporter in town with his documentaries and daily stories,” Milligan said.

Worse than Klan

Crump’s documentaries – which have won three regional Emmys – have covered topics ranging from King’s last days to lunch counter sit-ins to the story of Dorothy Counts, who integrated Charlotte schools.

Throughout his career, Crump has covered the Ku Klux Klan and interviewed many of its leaders, both wearing hoods and without.

“None of them have ever called me the n-word,” he said.

“We may not see eye-to-eye on racial issues, but not a single Klansman I’ve interviewed in 35 years of doing this stuff has stooped to this level of vulgarity.”

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