Case of Line-Cutting Sparks Racial Firestorm
Young black woman faces 15 years in dust-up at Wal-Mart
A Wal-Mart.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – Trial is set to begin in a case of Wal-Mart line-cutting that has turned into a racially charged media circus. Heather Ellis was arrested almost three years ago after an incident that began when she switched checkout lines at a Missouri store—to join her cousin in a faster queue, she says. Witnesses and police say the young black woman shoved other shoppers’ merchandise out of the way and then, when confronted, became belligerent. She gave one cop a kick in the chin and another a split lip, they say. She says she was called racial slurs and "jumped on" even though she wasn't resisting.

The case has inspired rallies in the town, accusations of prejudice, and supposed threats from the Ku Klux Klan.“This is not a matter of justice,” Ellis’ father tells the AP. “It's a vendetta.” A former mayor is saddened by the attention. “We're a small country town with greater problems than racism. Our problems are economic.” And Wal-Mart is studiously mum. Ellis, who faces 15 years, is now a school teacher in Louisiana engaged to a state trooper.