Missouri firefighter charged after allegedly calling toddler a racial slur, spitting on him

Authorities in Kansas have filed criminal charges against a 42-year-old Missouri man accused of calling a toddler a derogatory racial term inside a restaurant before allegedly spitting on the child, PEOPLE confirms.

Terrence J. Skeen faces one count each of battery, assault and disorderly conduct, according to a statement from police in Overland Park.

The Kansas City Star reports that Skeen has worked as a firefighter in Kansas City, Missouri, since 2002. (City officials did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.)

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Skeen is accused of spitting on a 3-year-old boy while in a Hooters restaurant on Feb. 26. According to police, “Witnesses at the scene reported that the child was called a racial slur and spat on.”

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“A police officer took the information and later made contact with the victim and family members, who had left the restaurant after the incident [but] before police arrived,” authorities said in a statement.

Skeen will appear in court on April 3 for the first hearing in his case, which has “been referred to the FBI for any further investigation they determine is necessary,” according to police.

Local news station KCTV spoke to a witness who was in the restaurant at the time of the incident.

“He basically said get that little ‘blank’ up off the floor,” the onlooker recalled, describing the offender as a white man. “The ‘n-word’ started to get thrown around.”

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The comment left the witness speechless, the station reports.

The witness said he first saw the child wander away from his family and, when a relative came to retrieve him, Skeen allegedly used a racial slur and spat at the boy, according to KCTV.

Kansas City officials said in a statement that the city “values diversity and expects all employees to treat others with respect,” according to the Star. They said they were unable to comment on specific personnel.

In a statement of its own, Hooters reportedly said it “does not tolerate any harassment or discriminatory language, the safety and well-being of our guests and employees are our utmost priorities.

“Of course it goes without saying that our policy is to fully cooperate with any law enforcement investigation.”

Skeen is not being held and has not entered pleas to his charges.

It was unclear if he has retained an attorney and efforts to reach him directly for comment were unsuccessful.

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