Waterbury family claims verbal attack was racially motivated

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WATERBURY -- A Waterbury family claims a verbal attack on them while walking their dog was racially motivated.

Tamara Lanier-Hanna says she and her two children were walking their bulldog, Ringo, around 8 p.m. Thursday evening when a neighbor on Hubble Avenue began shouting and cursing at them to get off his property. Lanier-Hanna said they never walked anywhere near the man's property.

"The gentleman jumped out of his truck and just started yelling 'get off my property,' and we were clearly in the street," said Lanier-Hanna. "We weren't on his property at all."

Lanier-Hanna said she and her children were stunned, and continued walking. Because Hubble Avenue is a dead end, they had to walk past the man's house again. When they did, her daughter Bree Lanier started recording video on her cell phone. The video shows the neighbor yelling profanities and telling the family he never wants to see them near his property again.

Lanier-Hanna claims they then stopped recording video to call 911, and that it was then that the man began making death threats and wielded a hatchet from behind his front door. Lanier-Hanna said the man threatened to 'blow their brains out' and chop them up.

The neighbor, 27-year-old Michael Smith, also called police. According to the incident report from Waterbury Police, Smith said he came home from grocery shopping and noticed people on his property, surrounding his house. He reportedly told the 9-1-1 dispatcher that the only object he had to defend himself was a hatchet. Smith told police that he had been seeing black people around his house at 2 a.m., leading him to believe that they are 'casing the neighborhood.'

Lanier-Hanna believes the incident was racially motivated. "Never have we experienced anything like this before," she said.

Waterbury Police say they were never made aware of death threats or shown cell phone video. Lanier-Hanna said she did show the video to an officer. According to the incident report, police told both parties to remain separate. Lanier-Hanna said she and her children now walk their dog elsewhere, but would like police to further investigation the situation.