The three wanted to rebut allegations that they had harassed Betty and Earl Holloway 3d and their sons, Tom, 17, and Michael, 15. The family, which is white, lives on Taylor Road.
The Holloways have complained to authorities that a gang of young people forced Tom Holloway's car off the road. They also say someone fired a shotgun at their home. Earl Holloway has filed harassment complaints against Szymanski and Downs in connection with the car incident, according to court officials.
Last week, Betty Holloway said the trouble stems from the friendship their sons have with Paul L. Simmons, 19, of Glassboro, and William Davis, 18, of Franklin Township, who are black.
Szymanski said the Holloways' friendship with Simmons and Davis was not the root of the problem.
"I have no problem with them having black friends," he said. "That's not what the situation was. We had problems with (the Holloways). It is a dispute between a bunch of kids. I don't know how they got all this racial stuff involved in it."
The youths spoke for two hours in response to the Holloways' allegations.
Szymanski, 6 feet tall, his hair cut in a flat-top, wears two tattoos. One, on his right forearm, says, "DESTROY." That applies to his play on a high school hockey team, he said. On his left forearm Szymanski wears what he said is a Celtic war symbol.
The 16-year-old wore a cross around his neck with a swastika, the emblem of the Nazi party, embossed on it.
"I guess they say I am a racist for some reason," Szymanski said. "I am not going to say I am not a racist, and I am not going to say I am a racist
because that has nothing to do with it. This is just a dispute between a bunch of kids from one neighborhood and a bunch of kids from another neighborhood. People get in arguments about stupid things all the time."
Law enforcement authorities said the dispute between these youths and the Holloways began with simple name-calling. The Holloways say it escalated into a drive-by shooting on July 22. Szymanski, Downs and the 16-year-old denied any involvement with the shooting.
Betty Holloway last week pointed out what she said were six small buckshot holes in the aluminum siding of the family's home.
Betty Holloway said she was at home alone the night of the shooting.
"You see, I didn't even know anything about that," Szymanski said. "I was in Franklinville that night, and I have already talked to the cops about it as I was questioned, and I was a major suspect in that case. They asked if I had come to Franklinville, and I said yes, and I saw Jimmy at the Wawa there, and I was hanging out in Clayton earlier that night with friends."
The shooting remains under investigation by Franklin Township police, as is the accident in which Tom Holloway lost control of the Subaru he was driving and crashed into a pole early June 6. Gloucester County Prosecutor Harris Cotton said Monday that no arrests had been made.
Franklin Township Police Capt. Michael O'Donnell said last week that the youths' possible relationship to a hate group was an aspect of the police investigation. He declined to elaborate.
Szymanski, a native of upstate New York, is unemployed and lives in the area with an aunt. He blamed the conflict on an argument the Holloways had with his girlfriend, whom he declined to name.
"You see what happened was there was an argument between my girlfriend and one of their friends about something that happened (a) long time ago and she was still mad about it, and I guess that she yelled at them and gave them the finger," Szymanski said. "Some words were exchanged and they (the Holloways) showed up there wanting to fight and that's how it all started. That was sometime in June or July."
Late last week, Wayne Swanson, president of the Southern Gloucester County Chapter of the NAACP, met with Franklin Township police and Officer Chris McIlvaine of the New Jersey State Police Bias Incident Unit. Swanson said authorities would not discuss the case because it was being reviewed by the county prosecutor's office.