Dear Ms Underwood,
I very much regret the incident before the Elon football game. I should have been more patience and I apologize.
This was the note that Shelvia Underwood received from Tallman Trask, a Duke University Executive Vice President and its primary financial/administrative officer, after alleging that he used a racial slur as he drove off moments after hitting her with his car.
The victim claims that Trask hit her with his vehicle on August 30, 2014 before a Duke football game against Elon University, and called her a “stupid N*****” as he drove off. Weeks later, Underwood received an apology note signed by Trask after she filed a police report with the Duke University Police Department.
According to the Chronicle, Duke’s Student Newspaper, Trask initially “categorically denied hitting Underwood with his car and using a racial slur. When presented by the Chronicle with the apology note, he acknowledged hitting her unintentionally but again denied using the slur.”
Underwood has said that after the game had gotten underway, Trask approached in his silver Porsche while she was speaking with a pedestrian. Underwood said that she needed to stop Trask in order to help the pedestrian, and that, as a subcontracted employee not affiliated with Duke University, she did not realize who Trask was or his significance on campus.
As Underwood started to turn around and direct Trask, he hit her with his car.
“As I turn back around, I take a step and this car has hit me. My hands are on the hood, then I hit the ground,” Underwood said.
Underwood got off the ground, then said she shouted at Trask, “Really sir, really? You’re in that much of a hurry that you hit me with your car?”
Despite being visibly shaken up from the incident, Underwood regained her composure and reiterated to Trask that the road was closed unless he had a parking pass. As dictated by the Chronicle, Trask then continuously banged on his steering wheel screaming, “This road is not closed.” At this point, Trask then held up two parking passes – which allegedly was all Underwood needed in the first place to permit him through – and was then allowed to move unobstructed.
As Trask drove off, Underwood said he called her a “dumb, dumb n*****.”
After retracting his previous position of having not hitten Ms Underwood with his porsche, made this statement in light of the racial slur accusation:
“As I was driving to the home football game against Elon in August 2014, I was stopped in the traffic circle (between Flowers and Chapel Drives) by a parking attendant I did not recognize, who gruffly said ‘this road is closed.’ I told her I park on the quad, and have every day for almost 20 years. She told me to go park somewhere else. My regular parking pass, which is good in all spaces on campus at all times, was hanging from my rear view mirror.
There was a special all access pass for the Elon game in the corner of the windshield. I pointed to that and thought she was satisfied. She stepped away, but after I started moving (maybe five feet) she stepped back in front of the car. I slammed on the brakes and her hand ended up on my left fender. I did not intentionally hit her. By then I was extremely frustrated and said ‘how many permits do I need to show you?’ in a somewhat heated voice. I regret that I lost my patience and that’s what my note of apology was about.
I learned several days later that Ms. Underwood had filed a complaint and claimed I had said something else. Her allegations were separately and independently investigated by the Duke Police and the Office of Institutional Equity, both of whom interviewed all witnesses. None of them heard me saying what she claimed I said, quite simply because I didn’t say it. It is a complete fabrication.
I had assumed this was resolved more than a year ago until I received a letter last November from a Raleigh attorney threatening to sue me (not clear for what) unless I paid her an unspecified sum. I declined to do so then and do not intend to do so now.”
The Chronicle spoke to several witnesses, all of whom anonymously confirmed parts of her story – Trask hitting her with his car – and one of who confirmed his use of the racial slur.
Jazzy Holloway, a family friend of Underwood’s who said she was on her way to the game with her kids walking toward the stadium, said she also saw part of the incident. After she bent down to tie her son’s shoes, Holloway said she saw Underwood on top of Trask’s car and heard her say, “Really, sir?” after she slid off the car.
In addition to seeing Trask bang on his steering wheel, Holloway said she heard him use a racial slur.
“I heard him say ‘Stupid n*****,’” Holloway said.
Claims that Underwood was seeking financial compensation have not yet been substantiated.
Regarding her expectations of how the incident should be resolved, Underwood says she merely wanted “a sincerely apology, and this isn’t even close to it.”