July 22, 1997

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Vandalism and beating was revenge for racial slur


The Associated Press

UTICA, Pa. (AP) -- A teen accused of rioting in northwestern Pennsylvania village says a racial slur triggered the July 7 rampage in which he and his friends smashed car windows and beat a man with baseball bats.

Kurt Woods of Meadville made the statement in Venango County Central Court during a preliminary hearing for another accused rioter, Clifford McClure, 19, also of Meadville.

Woods, who is white, said he was swimming in a creek near Utica with McClure, who is black, with several other friends when a Utica teen called McClure a racial slur and told him to ``get out of town.''

Woods said the group chased the unidentified teen into Utica and eventually started brawling with a group of youths and adults from the town.

Woods said McClure, Woods and seven other Meadville teens returned to Utica later that night to seek revenge by smashing property and frightening residents.

``[McClure] was my friend. I was sticking up for him,'' Woods said.

Todd Steetle, a 30-year-old Utica resident, said the teens mistook him for someone involved in the earlier fight, and jumped him while he was walking toward the home of a relative.

Steetle testified that McClure put a gun to his head and threatened to kill him.

``He said, `I bet you don't think you are so tough now,''' Steetle said. ``I told him `put that gun down and I'll show you how tough I am.'''

Steetle said the other teens started beating him with baseball bats and steel pipes. Steetle managed to break free of the gang and escape without serious injury.

As Steetle described portions of the alleged attack, McClure slung his arm over his chair and smiled. Following the hearing, he was returned to the Venango County jail where he is being held on $15,000 bail.