The Hattiesburg Police Department is investigating the recent vandalism of Vikki Layne’s Bar and Grill in Downtown Hattiesburg.
Black business owner and owner of the restaurant Vikki Layne Terrell opened the doors to her restaurant on 115 Walnut St. Sept. 30 to find it vandalized with racial slurs spray painted throughout the building.
“It’s scary to know that my daughters can grow up in a world that still does this because everybody thinks it’s gone, and unless it happens to you, it’s really hard to believe. You think it’s over until it happens to you or your mother or your sister or your aunt,” Terrell said.
When Terrell walked in the doors and saw the state of her restaurant, which is located, she began streaming on Facebook Live, where the video has been viewed almost 40 thousand times.
A friend and former coworker of Vikki’s Keshia Partida said seeing the damage was heartbreaking.
“It was heartbreaking,” Partida said. “She works hard for this [restaurant].”
Terrell said she believes a bizarre interaction she had late Sept. 21 could be connected to the crime. She said while decorating her restaurant for her daughter’s birthday, she saw a person taking photos of the locks. When she confronted the man, she said he said he was taking photos of the gate for his mother and fled. Terrell said she caught part of the encounter on video.
Terrell said the most important steps are cleaning up and stepping up her security.
Terrell said her new camera system along with the support from the community makes her feel safe.
“It’s nice to know everyone is behind me because when you walk in and you see something like this you feel alienated and overwhelmed,” Terrell said.
Terrell has received criticism on social media, Some called the attack staged, and some even questioned the race of the vandals.
Hattiesburg resident and creator of the restaurant’s GoFundMe Amanda Roberts said she believes inflammatory media coverage and negative opinions being mistaken as fact has created doubt and racial division in the city.
“Through all of this, [Terrell] has not once accused or blamed any one ethnicity of doing those damages, but people are attacking her as if she has, and it’s ridiculous.” Roberts said. “To me, it doesn’t matter what skin color the perpetrators have, this kind of hate and violent crime should not exist.”
Roberts said she started the campaign to help cover what insurance won’t and help pay rent and other fees.
“I know Vikki wouldn’t have staged this because of what is at stake,” Roberts said. “Not only is she leasing the equipment and building that were destroyed, she and her employees are out of work until they can get the mess cleaned up. Plus, the extensive damages may not be covered by insurance and will most likely come out of her pocket.”
Terrell said she is less focused on the race of the culprit and more concerned with moving forward.
“Whoever did this wanted to instill in me that I could not go forward, that I could not do it, and now I feel obligated to show them that they did not stop anything,” Terrell said.The Hattiesburg Police Department are currently still investigating this case. Contact HPD with any information on the crime at 601-544-7900 or send an anonymous tip to Metro Crime Stoppers.