GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Kent County prosecutors say they issued charges of ethnic intimidation charges in two separate cases in a single day.
Both incidents happened last week, the first on Sunday, Aug. 1, at Logan’s Roadhouse restaurant in Gaines Township. According to court records, Donald Fish from Grand Rapids called a Black employee at the restaurant a derogatory name and then shoved her with his shoulder.
The second incident happened Saturday, Aug. 7, at the Staybridge Suites pool off of 29th Street in Kentwood. According to a sworn testimony from investigators filed with the court, the victim Jackie Beard Jr. is lucky to be alive.
“Most disturbing thing I have seen in my whole life,” Beard described what happened to him.
He said he and his family were hanging out at the pool when a new guest joined them. Police identified him as Joel Venema.
“He slammed his kids in the pool and I was like, OK, they are going to be on the wild side,” Beard recalled.
Beard said the behavior got worse.
“I was like, whoa. I stepped in there and was like, ‘Could you please take this away from my kids,'” he said.
That’s when Venema allegedly unleashed on Beard.
“He’s like, ‘F you, N-word, F you, N-word. I’m going to kill you, N-word,'” Beard said.
Trying to deescalate the situation, Beard said he started walking away. But Venema wasn’t done, allegedly jumping on Beard’s back and putting him in a chokehold.
“He was like, ‘I’m going to kill you, N-word. N-word, you are going to die tonight.’ I’m like , ‘No, I’m not,'” Beard said.
The court document said Venema, who was “obviously intoxicated,” jumped Beard twice in front of his three kids.
“I have never heard my baby cry like that. Even she knew in her innocent infant self that something was wrong,” Beard’s fiancée Lauren Summerfield said.
“I’ve had someone calling me the N-word — that’s something small to a giant. But physically putting their hands on me, telling me they are going to die and me kind of blacking out” had never happened before, Beard said.
He said he’s still alive because of the other pool guests and Kentwood police.
“I feel like they saved me,” Beard said.
News 8 tried getting Venema’s side, but no one answered at his home Thursday. Someone closed the garage door instead.
Court documents say after Venema was taken into custody, he continued to use racial slurs toward a Grand Rapids police officer and another arrestee who was Black.
“If he got past me, he could have done anything to anyone of those people that was sitting out there (at the pool). And it’s not about Black and white, it’s the same blood; we all bleed the same blood,” Beard said.
Venema is facing three charges and more than a decade in prison if found guilty.
The man involved in the Logan’s case is facing two charges and up to two years in prison.