A US couple was charged with harassment after their Black neighbour said they planted 'dead squirrels' on her property
- A white couple from New York is facing criminal charges after their Black neighbour accused them of years-long racial harassment.
- Jennifer McLeggan's accusations went viral when she wrote about them on the front door of her house.
- She accused the couple, John McEneaney and Mindy Canarick, of telling her "to go back to where I came from," shooting pellet guns into the yard, and "planting dead squirrels" on her property as well as human and canine faeces.
- "Nobody should have to live in fear of harassment from their neighbors," Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement announcing charges against the couple.
- The community has rallied around McLeggan in the form of protests, fundraisers, and men standing guard outside her house all night to protect her and her young child.
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A white New York couple, accused of tormenting their Black neighbour for three years, has been slapped with criminal charges over what a New York district attorney described as "a pattern of intolerable conduct that cannot be left unchecked."
The pair — John McEneaney, 57, and Mindy Canarick, 53 — live next door to Jennifer McLeggan in the village of Valley Stream on Long Island. McEneaney has been charged with criminal mischief and harassment, which, if he's convicted, could land him in jail for up to one year. Canarick's charge of criminal tampering carries a three-month sentence if she's found guilty. A judge has also issued an order of protection against the couple, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas' office said in a statement Monday.
After being arraigned Monday, McEneaney told reporters that he and his girlfriend were innocent and were the real victims in this situation, according to NBC New York.
"Never from my client's point of view, were there ever any racial aspects to the squabbles that they had," the accused couple's lawyer, John Kolodny, told CNN.
But that's not how McLeggan sees it.
The case came to light last month when McLeggan, a single mother and registered nurse, wrote a lengthy list of allegations against her white neighbors and stuck it on her front door.
McLeggan accused her neighbors of "racially harassing her," "planting dead squirrels" and tossing "human feces" on her property, and ordering her "to go back to where I came from."
"They have said that I can be erased," she wrote.
McLeggan told Insider the animal carcasses were the last straw.
"Now we've gone from dog feces to guns to human feces to spit to yelling under my window about how they can have me erased to dead squirrels," she said. "Now I'm thinking in my head, what's next? Am I going to be dead next? That's the message you guys are trying to send me?"
—Jennifer (@Immaculates_Mom) July 26, 2020
In the sign on her door, McLeggan wrote that someone had even used a blowtorch on her house, while the couple's friends had spit on her property and "threaten to get rid of" her. She also alluded to video footage of the couple or their associates having guns and walking around behind her home.
—Jennifer (@Immaculates_Mom) August 18, 2020
"The police have said that I will have to be harmed before an arrest can be made," she added. "I live in fear in my home. You will hear prayers coming from my home. I apologize for the noise."
'Nobody should have to live in fear of harassment from their neighbors'
The squirrel carcass, McLeggan told Insider, is what prompted her to highlight her experience publicly — on her door and on social media.
"I figured that if something happens to me, like it did to Breonna Taylor, at least people would know that I have a baby in the house and to call my mom to pick up the baby," she said.
In a statement, Singas talked about McLeggan's sign that was shared widely and brought the issue to her attention.
"The sign on Jennifer McLeggan's door broke my heart and rallied a community to her aid," Singas said. "It also moved my office to investigate this matter because nobody should have to live in fear of harassment from their neighbors."
Singas said McLeggan was pregnant in April 2017 when she moved into her current home and was instantly targeted.
"John McEneaney allegedly, as a form of harassment to annoy or alarm the victim, shot pellet guns repeatedly across the victim's lawn, from April 2017 until July 2020, striking a nearby street sign at least 20 times. Ms. McLeggan said that she has been fearful that she or her young daughter would be hit by a pellet, at least four of which were found on her lawn," she said, adding that McLeggan also saw Canarick "drop dog feces onto her property."
But, according to Kolodny, McEneaney used his backyard for target practice and never shot in the direction of anyone, CNN reported. Neither of his clients dropped a dead rodent on McLeggan's property, the defense attorney said, and the dog feces were a mistake. Canarick was trying to throw the fecal matter into the garbage, but missed, and didn't want to enter the neighboring property to pick it back up.
"It's very sad," Kolodny told CNN, adding that his clients feel as if they're "being defamed."
NBC News reported that McLeggan won $5,036.24 in small-claims court against Canarick in 2019. McLeggan told Insider that she didn't collect the money from Canarick, hoping the lawsuit would force the couple to take her seriously and back off.
"I thought maybe me going to court would stop them from bothering me, but it made things worse," she said.
McLeggan told Insider she lived in fear nonstop for three years.
"I never got to sleep in peace," she said. "I used to sleep with ... a dumbbell behind my door and with all the lights on and with 911 on speed dial. But it didn't stop."
McLeggan's plight has prompted a wellspring of support
McLeggan's story has sparked protests, the hashtag #StandWithJennifer, a Change.org petition that earned more than 32,000 signatures, and a GoFundMe campaign that's picked up over $49,000 in donations.
It also drew the attention of community members, who have taken to standing guard outside McLeggan's house — rain or shine — to protect her and her infant daughter. One man, known publicly as Flow, has kept watch every night for well over a month, prompting others to drop off water and food supplies to help them, McLeggan said.
—RareHipHop (@RareHipHop) July 26, 2020
—Jennifer (@Immaculates_Mom) August 7, 2020
—Jennifer (@Immaculates_Mom) July 25, 2020
—Jennifer (@Immaculates_Mom) August 3, 2020
—Jennifer (@Immaculates_Mom) August 10, 2020
—F.L.O.W. ???? (@flow349) July 21, 2020
The outpouring of support makes McLeggan feel as if her prayers have been answered because, she said, "there was a time that I was going to give up and sell the house. I was so fed up."
McLeggan added that she was glad by the judge's protection order because it's no longer just her word against theirs — investigators "found wrongdoing," she said.
But McLeggan acknowledged that these experiences had eroded her sense of security in her own home, leaving her worried that things might get "10 times worse now."
"I'm still scared to live over there," she told Insider, going on to say "it doesn't feel safe" even though people watched over the property during the day and all night. "When people are as angry as I'm sure my neighbors are," she said, "they don't have anything to lose."
This article has been updated.
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