International students—and perhaps all students—should stay clear of Neon Deli, according to Alice Hadler, the University’s Associate Dean for International Student Affairs.
Neon, located between Fauver Residence Hall and the Freeman Athletic Center, is a campus institution, serving beverages, sandwiches, cigarettes, and array of specialty items and basic groceries. Last November, however, an incident at Neon caused some concern among students and administrators.
On Nov. 19, The Argus reported that Henry-Louis de Kergorlay ’14, an international student from France, had been arrested in the deli’s parking lot. Public Safety (PSafe) and the Middletown Police Department (MPD) responded to a phone call from Neon proprietor Fran Galle, regarding an altercation between himself and de Kergorlay. The quarrel ended when five police vehicles converged on the deli’s parking lot and the police took de Kergorlay into custody. He was released later that night.
The dispute began with de Kergorlay speaking on his cell phone in the store and ended in anger and profanity. At some point, de Kergorlay mentioned the word “gun.”
“[Kergorlay] claimed he had a weapon, specifically a gun,” Galle told The Argus at the time of the incident. “We have a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who would endanger a customer or employee.”
Another international student, Rehan Mehta ’14, who entered Neon along with de Kergorlay, raised doubts about the seriousness of and the motivation for Galle’s concern.
In a statement to PSafe, Mehta wrote, “[Galle] started mocking [de Kergorlay] by imitating his French accent and hand movements….when [de Kergorlay] refused to leave without an explanation, the owner called the police and told them that [de Kergorlay] was pushing him and causing trouble in his store….Clearly he knew [de Kergorlay] had no weapon.”
At the time, de Kergorlay refused to discuss the incident for fear that he would put himself in legal jeopardy. On Monday, Nov. 22, he appeared in court and received several hours of community service. His mother flew over from France.
Now that the ordeal is over, de Kergorlay took a moment to reflect.
“Fran was really looking for an argument,” he said, “which I think is because I was not consuming anything in his store, and I was speaking on the phone in French…. I did mention the word gun, but, whatever the exact words were, it was obvious that I was sarcastic. He was the first one not to believe I had a gun. After that, he made fun of my French accent and everything. If someone claimed you had a gun and came in your store, would you push him and make fun of him? He just lied to the police.”
De Kergorlay said that he would have filed a lawsuit if the incident had occurred in France, but he was unwilling to risk meddling with legal issues that could put his U.S. student visa in jeopardy.
“This story took me way aback,” said Dean Hadler, who felt that neither party acted correctly, but that de Kergorlay suffered exaggerated consequences. “Nobody seems to have held Fran accountable at all…. I just thought about how much worse it could have been if it hadn’t been a guy like [de Kergorlay], who is very even tempered.”
Galle was not immediately available to comment.
Like Mehta and de Kergorlay, Hadler said that her days of eating at Neon Deli are over, at least until Galle apologizes for the incident, or at least acknowledges that there may have been another side to it.
“I would tell international students to avoid it,” she said, “I would tell everybody to avoid it, at this point. I’m not going there anymore, sadly. The food is good.”