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Mall merchants express regret about incident

Alleged assault has shop owners assuring public of mall's safety

Posted: Thursday, March 03, 2005

Members of the Nugget Mall Merchants Association have issued an open letter to the Juneau community expressing their regret about an incident at Radio Shack Friday night that led to the arrest of the store's manager on an assault charge.

James White, 46, is accused of pushing a Harborview Elementary School teacher against the wall of his store and then striking him repeatedly. He pleaded not guilty at his initial Juneau District Court appearance Monday. His next appearance is scheduled for Friday.

White's attorney, Louis Mendendez, said late Wednesday that his client had no comment.

Fred Hiltner, 50, said he had gone to the store to ask about an incident involving a 12-year-old Native boy he said was asked to leave the previous day. According to White's citation, Hiltner sustained a dislocated shoulder and abrasions to his face. He was treated at Bartlett Regional Hospital.

"We are doing everything in our power to keep the Nugget Mall a safe, warm and inviting environment for all members of our great community and our family of employees," the merchants' letter states. It was signed by the 35 businesses other than Radio Shack in the mall association.

"I think people know it's limited to one person, and it's limited to one store," said Ron Flint, owner of Alaska Nugget Outfitter and the association's president.

He said White was involved in the ownership of the mall's Radio Shack franchise, but added that the businesses under the big roof and across the parking lot don't have any control over each other, any more than businesses on South Franklin Street downtown have over each other. The merchants consider the actions alleged, both from Thursday and Friday, to be appalling, he said.

The letter states that the mall and its merchants have served the community for 30 years "in a fair and good neighborly way providing jobs, supporting nonprofit organizations and as a gathering place to hold informational fairs and fun events."

The Nugget Mall Radio Shack has been open, but someone other than White has been running it, Flint said.

He said he did not know if mall business has been affected this week.

John Weedman, manager of the town's other Radio Shack, at the Western Auto store in the Lemon Creek area, said a few customers have mentioned the allegations to him, but he doesn't know if the publicity about the charges have affected business.

When people ask, he said the only thing the two stores have in common is that they sell Radio Shack merchandise. "We're both independent franchises," he said.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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