DALLAS, June 27 -- A Dallas County grand jury today declined to indict four mall security guards and their leader who were arrested after four youths suspect of theft were stripped and flogged.
The police had charged the guards, members of the Nation of Islam, and the group's local leader, Jeffrey Muhammad, with aggravated kidnapping, saying they had taken the law into their own hands.
The grand jury's action reflected sentiment among the mostly black shopkeepers at the Westcliff Mall, southwest of the downtown area, as well residents in the neighborhood. Shopkeepers, mall officials and the guards, who are black, as are the youths, say the Muslim patrols are more effective and welcome than patrols by the police, whom they mistrust.
The Nation of Islam, which has a mosque, offices and a bookstore at the mall, provides security services at Westcliff.
But the parents of the boys, who have filed a civil suit against the guards, were angry. "It's child abuse," Bobby Lott, the stepfather of one boy, said in an interview. "They should have been prosecuted."
A shop owner said that early on June 12 thieves took $55 in cash and a cash register worth about $300. The guards caught the boys later that day, holding them for four hours and repeatedly whipping them with belts and bamboo canes.