ROTTERDAM – Statements filed this week in court shed new light on a racial incident that led to the felony arrest of a Wilton man last week, accused of creating a figure that looked like a person of color and hanging from a twine noose at a job site.
Two employees discovered the object inside a construction container the morning of March 30 at a D.A. Collins Construction job site in Rotterdam Junction.
The incident was immediately reported to state police and a two-month investigation then led to the arrest last week of Thomas L. McDermott, 53, of Wilton, on one count of first-degree aggravated harassment, a felony.
Troopers spoke with those who discovered the object and others at the site and with the company. Documents filed don’t indicate how troopers zeroed in on McDermott, other than one company official indicating about six employees had access to the trailer in the weeks leading up to the incident.
In one of the statements, the job site supervisor described to troopers the reaction of one of the employees who discovered the object.
The employee, the supervisor told investigators, “was visibly emotional and stated that this object bothered him and asked if this is what people at the job site think of him,” the supervisor’s statement reads.
In his own statement to troopers, that employee indicated he and his co-worker had gone to the container at the Scrafford Lane site in search of a rake needed for a task.
While looking for something else inside, “I bumped into an object that was hanging by a string on the right side of the container,” that employee’s statement read. “When I saw the object, I thought it looked unusual. After looking it over, I noticed the object was crafted to look like a Black man and the string that was attached was tied to resemble a noose.”
The string was around the object’s neck and hung from the ceiling, the employee’s statement read.
He described it as a brown, rusted steel ball that had screws for eyes. Black marker had been used to draw the rest of the facial features. A large screw with duct tape around it was used to resemble the body. Another screw was used to resemble an arm, the statement read.
He turned to his co-worker, who confirmed it looked exactly like what he’d thought.
“I became emotional and furious” and contacted his supervisor, his statement read.
He didn’t see the object hanging there the day before.
He also said he had worked for D.A. Collins for a decade and it was the first time something like that had happened to him, he told troopers in the statement.
A representative of D.A. Collins, outside employment counsel Glen P. Doherty, this week indicated the man accused in the crime, McDermott, is no longer affiliated with the company. The representative also noted that the company immediately notified state police upon receiving notice of the report.
“D. A. Collins is aware of the arrest, and the individual alleged to have participated in the crime is no longer affiliated with the Company,” Doherty said in the statement. “My client was the party that notified the State Police in the first instance, and did so immediately upon receiving notice of the report made by one of its employees. This matter is now in the hands of the District Attorney.”
McDermott turned himself in to police June 3. He was processed and released. He is due back in court next week. A listed attorney for McDermott could not be reached for comment.