'We were trapped' says Pike Road apartment resident claiming discrimination against blacks

Brian Edwards
Montgomery Advertiser
The Grand Reserve at Pike Road apartment homes

Rules targeting a Pike Road apartment complex's black residents could be made up at any time and one woman's family felt trapped because of the discrimination, she said during trial. 

"It just felt like we were in prison, no one could go outside ... It was like hell," said Kimberly Belcher, who is now a Montgomery resident suing Grand Reserve at Pike Road for discrimination.

The federal trial began Monday with Belcher's suit alleging that apartment ownership and management repeatedly discriminated against black staff and residents through intentionally prejudiced rules and monetary threats.

Belcher, along with two of her children who testified Monday, said several rules created in March 2015 — as well as an existing one from 2012 — were specifically targeted at black residents and prevented the children from leaving the family’s apartment without adult supervision and stopped them from using playgrounds, a pool, a pond on the property as well as the gym facilities.

"We felt that we were trapped. They could make up any rules at any time, and we couldn't afford it," Belcher said.

More:Blacks targeted, accused of turning Pike Road apartment into 'ghetto,' lawsuit claims

Evidence in Blechers v. Grand Reserve case

Defense attorneys attempted to paint Kimberly Belcher as someone with a propensity to live above her means. Brooke Reid, one of the attorneys, said Belcher would go on pricey vacations and buy expensive clothes, jewelry and cars, even though she had previously filed for bankruptcy to discharge debt from a previous car and credit cards.

Reid also said that the apartment claimed there was 13 time where the Belchers were late or failed to pay their rent, though Kimberly Belcher disputed that and said it was likely no more than two times.

She added that the fines from rule violations — about $200 for each incident — financially strained the family and caused such serious fights that Montgomery sheriff's officers, who moonlighted as security in the complex, were called to the apartment as Kimberly and Dedric Belcher yelled at each other. Those fights and the subsequent call to the sheriff allegedly reignited a rift in the Belcher marriage that resulted in Dedric Belcher moving into a separate apartment because he was afraid he would lose his job with the Montgomery Police Department if the sheriff was called again.

The defense attempted to poke holes in Kimberly Belcher's story, pointing out that Dedric Belcher had already filed for divorce before the couple moved into the Grand Reserve, even though it was eventually withdrawn. Reid also brought up the fact that Kimberly Belcher had already been twice divorced before marrying Dedric.

More:Trial date set for racial discrimination case at Pike Road apartment

Two of the Belcher's children, a 10-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl, took the stand and spoke about the rules and how they affected them. Both children said by the end of their time at the Grand Reserve, they were glad to move out.

Kimberly Belcher said that her son, who has ADHD and has autism, began to run away from the apartment when he wasn't allowed to go outside. The situation grew so tense that he told his mother and sisters "I hate you," according to Belcher.

"It's not fun. You have to sit down. You can't smell the fresh air," Belcher's son said on the stand.

After moving out the of the Grand Reserve, Reid brought up that Belcher moved into a new apartment complex, and there was a dispute about her residence where the apartment locked her out of the residence and refused to give her back some of her items. James Long, the attorney for the Belchers, also represented her in the case.

But in redirect questioning, Long pointed out that Kimberly Belcher won the suit against the apartment, and Belcher said she was awarded about $3,000.