Racial slur on construction sign along I-94 targets Trayvon Martin

Slur found on MDOT sign near Addison

Author: Shawn Ley, Local 4 Reporter, @ShawnLeyLive, sley@wdiv.com
Published On: Apr 09 2012 04:22:05 AM EDT   Updated On: Apr 09 2012 11:36:31 AM EDT
DETROIT -

Elaine Bonner says she can't believe.

"I feel violated by it," she said.

Bonner was driving westbound on Interstate 94 near Addison going into Dearborn at about 1 a.m. when she saw the sign.

An MDOT highway message board was lit up for all to see: "Trayvon A N*****." 

Bonner called 911.

She wanted the hate message to come down and come down fast as Monday rush hour was approaching.  

MDOT spokesperson Rob Morosi says its clear someone broke into the sign’s operating system and had enough knowledge to be able to delete the traffic message and put up their own offensive message about the Florida teen shot who was killed by a neighborhood watch captain. The Trayvon Martin case has inflamed feelings of racial discrimination nationwide. 

“The knew what they were doing,” Morosi said. 

He doesn’t think it was anyone with the sign company or an MDOT subcontractor called “Poco.”

He says a person with enough computer knowledge would be able to change the sign. There are instructions on changing highway signs on-line. 

“I don’t think we really understood how accessible these signs were," said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, Detroit NAACP president.  

A metal box on the back on the sign had been broken into and its keyboard was torn out and stolen.

Michigan State Police said it was flooded by calls from drivers outraged by the sign. 

MSP called MDOT overnight and an employee came out to the sign to take the message down.

State troopers drove area freeways all morning to check to make sure other message boards hadn’t been tampered with. 

MDOT and the MSP are now investigating and asking anyone who may have seen a person at the sign or a car parked on the side of I-94 near the sign to call them. 

“Whoever it is needs to be found. They changed the message, now find the messenger,” Anthony said.