CAMPBELLFORD, Ont. – A former police officer who donned blackface for a Halloween party and was led around on a rope by a friend dressed as a Ku Klux Klansman says he’s sorry.
“It was a stupid thing. In hindsight now, we should have never done it,” Terry Nunn told The Canadian Press on Thursday, adding he’s terribly embarrassed and ashamed.
“With my background I should have realized that maybe somebody might have been offended,” he said.
Nunn, who was Toronto’s police officer of the year in 1981, is a former homicide detective and director of legal services for the Toronto Police Association who retired in 2006.
He worked on high profile cases such as the 1990 sex killing of six-year-old Andrea Atkinson and the 1995 drug-fuelled murder of Dr. Carolyn Warrick, 29, in an underground garage.
Nunn said he is in “no way, shape or form” a racist and neither is his friend Blair Crowley who wore the Klansman garb.
“I don’t believe in the KKK,” he told Toronto radio station AM640.
He bought a plaid shirt and the black hairspray that he used on his face only hours before the Royal Canadian Legion’s party in Campbellford, Ont., last Saturday night, he said.
They won the prize for most original costume at the party, which was open to the public. Neither man is a legion member.
But what was supposed to be a night of fun to celebrate Halloween has turned into a nightmare of controversy for the pair.
“I never thought it would get this far that they would close down the legion,” he said, adding he hopes they will reopen the branch in Campbellford.
Nunn said he and Crowley might apologize in person to Mark Andrade, the black owner of Rubbs Barbeque Bistro. He arrived at the legion just in time to see Nunn and Crowley get their prize. He later complained.
However, their costumes weren’t the only ones in poor taste. Another man was dressed as a Nazi chef and had “a little Hitler moustache,” said Nunn.
Crowley’s wife Marsha said her husband admits he should have thought more about his outfit.
“It was just a last-minute ‘Well, what am I going to wear? There’s a bedsheet. Well I’m not going as a ghost.’ And we had a piece of bristol board and kind of rolled it up and that was his costume,” said Crowley from their home in Hastings on Thursday.
Her husband also wore a U.S. Confederate flag on his back.
Crowley said her husband is no racist, adding his best friend is black.
“They’re two great guys. They’re not racist. They didn’t mean nothing by it. They’re really sorry it’s gotten this far but they can’t take it back. What’s done is done,” Crowley said.
She described her husband as a “teddy bear” and a motorcycle buff who has for years taken part in charity rides, including the Ride for Sight.
The Crowleys have kept their son home from school for a couple of days. Nunn said the incident has been difficult for his three stepchildren at school.
The former officer, who ran for Trent Hills council in the recent municipal election but finished last among the candidates, said he may have to move out of Campbellford if the controversy continues.
Nunn apologized on the radio to Trent Hills Mayor Hector Macmillan.
The mayor said Thursday he knows who Nunn is but he hasn’t spoken to either of the men since the incident.
“They did a dumb thing. They did a stupid thing and have apologized for it and it’s time to move on,” he said.
Legion officials have decided to close the Campbellford branch indefinitely while they assess what happened and what steps should be taken.
Macmillan said the timing couldn’t be worse, with the yearly poppy campaign in full swing and Remembrance Day next week.
“It’s too bad something like this is overshadowing that,” the mayor said.
A spokeswoman for the legion’s Ontario Command said it was hoped the investigation would be complete in time for the Remembrance Day service.