Nurse Jennifer McLeggan bought a home and moved into the Valley Stream neighborhood of Long Island, NY in 2017. She was pregnant at the time and looking forward to building a new life for her and her family.
However, she soon became subject to harassment and abuse from her neighbors, John McEneaney, 57, and Mindy Canarick, 53, both of whom were arrested this week. They have been accused of doing all sorts of horrible things to McLeggan and her young daughter, now two years old.
Many black Americans suffer from rampant abuse and harassment, either at home, on the street, or at work. Learn more about this nurse and why her story is so shocking.
As soon as Jennifer McLeggan moved into her new home on Long Island, things started out bad. According to prosecutors, this pattern of abuse began in April 2017 and lasted up until last month.
It started with her neighbors shooting pellet guns across the line of her property, hitting a nearby street sign 20 times. She’s found several pellets in her backyard since. McLeggan feared for her and her daughter’s lives, afraid that they might get hit with a bullet on their own property.
After working the late-night shift, Jennifer returned home to see her neighbor throw a bag of dog feces into her yard. Her neighbors have also reportedly thrown dead squirrels onto her property.
Over the last two years, McLeggan has been paying attention to the constant abuse and taunting from her neighbors. She recorded video of some of these incidents, which resulted in a $5,000 victory in court. She also put up a large poster on her door describing the pattern of abuse.
The lengthy message reads, “They are now planting dead squirrels on my property and have told me to go back to where I came from. They have their friends come spit on my property and it was recorded. A blow torch was taken to my home at 3 a.m.”
As the months went on, the message grew. “They have said that I can be ‘erased.’ … The police have said I need to be harmed for them to make an arrest,” she wrote. “I live in FEAR for my life at home.”
She says she put up the sign in case she died in her own home. As she told a local news outlet, “In case something happens to me here, then somebody would know I’m in the house with a baby. If I die in here, at least cops would see the sign.”
Soon, Jennifer’s struggle became a rallying cry for the rest of the community. She started sharing her story on social media, setting off a wave of backlash. Other Valley Stream residents came to her aid, carrying signs with the hashtag “Stand with Jennifer.”
The DA Steps In
Both McLeggan and her neighbors have called the cops on each other repeatedly, but as the evidence mounted, they finally decided to make an arrest. McEneaney was arrested and charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief in the fourth degree and misdemeanor harassment in the first degree. He faces a maximum of one year in jail if convicted. Canarick was charged with misdemeanor criminal tampering in the third degree and faces three months in jail if convicted.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas commented on the case, “The sign on Jennifer McLeggan’s door broke my heart and rallied a community to her aid. It also moved my office to investigate this matter because nobody should have to live in fear of harassment from their neighbors.”
Authorities have yet to classify their actions as a hate crime. “At this time, we do not have any evidence of any bias,” Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder told the outlet at that time. “But that does not mean that it is not there. We have more work to do.”
Both Canarick and McEneaney were released from prison and told to return to court on October 9th. Prosecutors hope to convict both parties for their abusive behavior, so McLeggan and her daughter can finally feel safe.
A History of Abuse
This is not the first time a black family has been harassed after moving into a predominantly white neighborhood. African Americans have been subject to abuse from their neighbors for centuries.
ProPublica’s Documenting Hate project has collected over 6,000 incidents of reported abuse among minority Americans. However, many police departments do not release these kinds of statistics. Of the 6,000 reports, they were able to identify 639 incidents of anti-black violence or harassment from the police. More than a fifth of those reports, 138 in all, were incidents involving people being targeted by neighbors or in their homes.
According to a 2019 Pew Research Center report on race in the U.S., 65% of Americans say it’s now more common for people to say racist or racially insensitive comments, and 58% say race relations in the U.S. are generally bad, while 56% say President Trump has made racial tensions worse.
America can feel divisive at times, especially during the pandemic, but everyone has the right to feel safe and secure in their own home. Watch out for incidents of abuse in your neighborhood and let your neighbors know you have their backs.