2 Black men say they were handcuffed while trying to return a TV - Now they're suing Walmart

Eric

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Good. Returning a TV with a receipt while being black is not a crime. Make an example out of these racists.


The men said a routine trip to the store resulted in police being called on them on suspicion they stole the television. They added that they were placed in handcuffs despite Stewart showing store workers the $300.94 receipt for the Hisense television he bought, according to suit, which names Walmart Inc. as a defendant.

Walmart Stores Texas, LLC, and multiple store employees identified as John Doe and Jane Doe are also named in the civil suit as defendants.

Stewart and Richardson allege they were falsely imprisoned and discriminated against because of their race, the lawsuit said. The moment in handcuffs was so overwhelming and degrading for Stewart, he broke down while detained inside the store, court filings stated.

“Plaintiffs repeatedly asked for an explanation for being detained, searched, handcuffed and embarrassed in such a demeaning fashion, and also why the defective television was not allowed to be exchanged,” the lawsuit said. The men’s questions went unanswered. “It was at this point Dennis — a grown 50+year old man — began to cry and begged for answers,” according to the suit.
 

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ronntaylor

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Good. Returning a TV with a receipt while being black is not a crime. Make an example out of these racists.

This happens on a regular, probably daily basis for Black and POC shoppers. That's why I usually buy online and when I have to go to a physical location, try to finish my business as quickly as possible. It's a shame that I have to be acutely aware of every action that I take to not be mistakenly for a criminal. Simply because of my race. I'm sure that there will be defenders of Walmart. Excuses are plentiful.

Unfortunately for these two, they screwed up by signing the criminal trespass paperwork. They can show how it was signed under duress. But Walmart will use the hell out of that to minimize it's culpability and it may even get them off the hook.
 

thekev

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Unfortunately for these two, they screwed up by signing the criminal trespass paperwork. They can show how it was signed under duress. But Walmart will use the hell out of that to minimize it's culpability and it may even get them off the hook.

That is not a screwup. Signing a trespass warning isn't admission of anything. It acknowledges that they have been warned not to return and probably doesn't indicate any explicit reason for this. I would be very surprised if there's any legal precedent to use such a thing as an admission of shoplifting or similar.

Note the line below:

In one last indignity, the men, according to the lawsuit, were required to sign a “Criminal Trespass Warning,” which guarantees that criminal charges remain on file at Walmart if the men try to return to the store, the lawsuit said.


Still, the whole thing is still fucking ridiculous. It would seem to make more sense for shoplifters to go after small items with high prices. Usually stores lock up things that match this criteria, like packs of razor cartridges. If it's something large like a television, even ignoring the obvious profiling issue, I question how they're incapable of checking against a serial number. I'm not saying that a mismatch should be enough to detain anyone, just that such a check should enough to quash any idiotic suspicions.
 

Thomas Veil

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Serial number, heck—the article says that the TV had been purchased that same day. The store should have a record that would match the two guys’ receipt. But they didn’t even bother to check that. (Not that it’s necessary—for a white person, they would simply trust the receipt and take the TV back.)

Whichever employees handled the situation, they should be fired.
 

thekev

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Serial number, heck—the article says that the TV had been purchased that same day. The store should have a record that would match the two guys’ receipt. But they didn’t even bother to check that. (Not that it’s necessary—for a white person, they would simply trust the receipt and take the TV back.)

Whichever employees handled the situation, they should be fired.

You might be misinterpreting my words slightly. I was speculating on what they might be accused of here. It's unlikely that they were accused of walking out with a television then bringing it back. I figured they were more likely accused of trying to return a different unit. The article doesn't mention the allegation, presumably because they don't have access to them.

I do find it pretty weird how often this kind of nonsense comes up, given that Walmart has a lot of locations in close proximity to lower income (predominantly) Black and Latino neighborhoods. Ignoring the legal expenses, you would think that alienating Black people would be cause for financial concern.
 

DT

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The article reads like they wanted to just exchange it, but some additional details would be helpful - clearly, as presented, it sounds like some crazy ass racial harassment.

I was thinking about this article in the context of me being at Target the other day, I had a couple items, about $50 in value, and I wanted a couple of other things, decided I needed a basket - I walked through the cashier area, right up the exit doors and of the Target-Drones said, "Have a good day!" in a cheery tone. My items weren't bagged (though the two things were sort of oversized), didn't ask for a receipt, I most likely could've just walked out.

I didn't even think about someone thinking I was stealing, or if they did, how easily I [would assume] I could handle it. Like as a "regular white dude", my mind doesn't even have to go through "what if" scenarios, i.e., what @ronntaylor talked about above.

JFC.
 

Herdfan

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Why are they not also suing the police department? I can understand WalMart workers being idiots, but there was no reason for the police to handcuff them.
 

ronntaylor

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That is not a screwup. Signing a trespass warning isn't admission of anything. It acknowledges that they have been warned not to return and probably doesn't indicate any explicit reason for this. I would be very surprised if there's any legal precedent to use such a thing as an admission of shoplifting or similar.
I worked in retail security for several years. As a security officer, dispatcher and later as part of store management. I've prepared and supervised the writing of CTWs. It basically states that there is enough evidence present for arrest and a criminal suit. If, in the future, you enter the store (and often any other location) you will be subject to criminal trespass charges and whatever charges that are essentially being deferred in the current case. It gives the store ammunition against a civil suit. And juries defer to this garbage in criminal and civil suits. They literally eat it up.

I know it must be scary to be handcuffed, confronted by hostile LEOs and store staff compelling you to sign. But it's even scarier if it comes back to bite you in the ass. I've been involved in cases where someone wasn't aware that stepping into another XXXX location was a violation of the CTW and they wound up being stopped for trespassing and essentially have the CTW used as admission of guilt in the previous case. Rarely does it end well for someone.

There were a few cases where a Security Guard screwed up and acted prematurely. A CTW was issued and saved the SG, while the customer was scared out of his (it's usually been a male) wits. Later the SG was admonished for acting improperly. Sometimes for ensnaring an innocent person. Most often for giving a career criminal a leg up for a possible civil suit. We were served notice on more than a few civil cases. I'm aware of only one case going through the process before it was settled just as jury selection got underway (and believe several other cases were settled well before heading to court).

Never sign anything without the presence of a lawyer. Never make any statement, written or otherwise, without the presence of a lawyer. As a former LEO, one of the victims should have been well aware of this truism. As Black men in America, they should be prepared for ill treatment when LE gets involved.
 

ronntaylor

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The article reads like they wanted to just exchange it, but some additional details would be helpful - clearly, as presented, it sounds like some crazy ass racial harassment.

I was thinking about this article in the context of me being at Target the other day, I had a couple items, about $50 in value, and I wanted a couple of other things, decided I needed a basket - I walked through the cashier area, right up the exit doors and of the Target-Drones said, "Have a good day!" in a cheery tone. My items weren't bagged (though the two things were sort of oversized), didn't ask for a receipt, I most likely could've just walked out.

I didn't even think about someone thinking I was stealing, or if they did, how easily I [would assume] I could handle it. Like as a "regular white dude", my mind doesn't even have to go through "what if" scenarios, i.e., what @ronntaylor talked about above.

JFC.
The 1st time we shopped in the Flushing Target we had security stop us well before the exit demanding to see our bags. I told them to kick rocks. My partner (now husband) was ready to just show his bag. I asked for the store manager and when told he wasn't there, I asked for him by name. The SG was startled. I read an article about the pending opening and knew about the location and its managers in advance of shopping there. I then asked for the MOD, Manager On-Duty. She was African American. She was polite and of course backed up the SG (I usually did the same when I became a retail manager; would never admonish an employee in front of customers. At most I would inform the customer that there had been an honest mistake by an employee.) After some BS about seeing my partner put something in his bag by the register in front of the cashiers just as other white customers had done, my partner showed his bag contents. I still refused showing mine because I knew I had done nothing wrong and hadn't even taken it off my back while shopping and paying for our items. While all of this was going on a white couple walked out with a couple baskets of items, confused about the register area. They could have kept walking were it not for me alerting the MOD and SG to assist them to pay for their items. The security tag system still wasn't functional and the couple could have left with free items. I suspect that in all the time they spent on us unnecessarily, that someone took advantage of the opportunity to leave with free shit.

While Black/POC customers are always on high alert to avoid confrontations, everyone else can simply shop and be afforded the benefit of the doubt when they do something that may seem inappropriate. I know for a fact that some use the tactic of pointing out others in order to steal. As a new SG at a new location in the past that actually worked on me and others. Again, it's maddening how often assumptions and prejudices cause these situations. Instead of stopping, apologizing and eventually learning from these situations, it's nonstop nonsense.
 

Herdfan

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So who lets the employee at WalMart/Target/etc. inspect their bags when leaving? I do not. I simply say "thank you and have a nice day" and keep walking like I didn't really hear them. And we get asked a lot probably because we are always buy cat litter and it isn't in a bag. Let them chase me to the car.

The exception is Sam's/Costco where it is in the membership agreement.
 

BigMcGuire

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The article reads like they wanted to just exchange it, but some additional details would be helpful - clearly, as presented, it sounds like some crazy ass racial harassment.

I was thinking about this article in the context of me being at Target the other day, I had a couple items, about $50 in value, and I wanted a couple of other things, decided I needed a basket - I walked through the cashier area, right up the exit doors and of the Target-Drones said, "Have a good day!" in a cheery tone. My items weren't bagged (though the two things were sort of oversized), didn't ask for a receipt, I most likely could've just walked out.

I didn't even think about someone thinking I was stealing, or if they did, how easily I [would assume] I could handle it. Like as a "regular white dude", my mind doesn't even have to go through "what if" scenarios, i.e., what @ronntaylor talked about above.

JFC.
My wife and I just made a quick trip to Target this morning - we don't bother getting bags - and walk out with a handful of items - pretty common place here in Southern California these days (at least in my neck of the woods). Why pay $.10 for a bag that I'll end up throwing away anyway?

Yeah, I never think about these things.

So who lets the employee at WalMart/Target/etc. inspect their bags when leaving? I do not. I simply say "thank you and have a nice day" and keep walking like I didn't really hear them. And we get asked a lot probably because we are always buy cat litter and it isn't in a bag. Let them chase me to the car.

The exception is Sam's/Costco where it is in the membership agreement.

When I lived in the high desert, these stores were pretty good about checking bags/receipts. Here closer to LA, I don't see it as much.

Never knew that about Costco, good to know lol.
 

thekev

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I worked in retail security for several years. As a security officer, dispatcher and later as part of store management. I've prepared and supervised the writing of CTWs. It basically states that there is enough evidence present for arrest and a criminal suit. If, in the future, you enter the store (and often any other location) you will be subject to criminal trespass charges and whatever charges that are essentially being deferred in the current case. It gives the store ammunition against a civil suit. And juries defer to this garbage in criminal and civil suits. They literally eat it up.

I know it must be scary to be handcuffed, confronted by hostile LEOs and store staff compelling you to sign. But it's even scarier if it comes back to bite you in the ass. I've been involved in cases where someone wasn't aware that stepping into another XXXX location was a violation of the CTW and they wound up being stopped for trespassing and essentially have the CTW used as admission of guilt in the previous case. Rarely does it end well for someone.

Note bolded parts.

Lack of reasoning by people serving jury duty doesn't surprise me, but the respective judges are idiots for allowing such a thing as evidence of guilt.
 

ronntaylor

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Note bolded parts.

Lack of reasoning by people serving jury duty doesn't surprise me, but the respective judges are idiots for allowing such a thing as evidence of guilt.
Well too many judges are partial to DA's offices and LEOs. Even in supposedly liberal cities, like NYC. The one criminal case that I served on (in Brooklyn, NY) had a range of citizens that mostly ate up whatever the police said, including Blacks, whites, Latinos, Jews, etc. And the judge went out of his way to disabuse us of thinking the police were not heroes that would never ever lie. CTWs are usually in larger print and clearly stated. The person signing attests to the fact that they are not signing under duress and that they understand the implication of signing. So it's pretty solid evidence in most instances. Again, keep your mouth shut and your best interests at heart at all times without the presence of an attorney. LE isn't your friend and often just want to walk away from most cases, not wanting to be involved in "petty" cases. They see the shitty things Loss Prevention does and don't care one bit.

In this case, I think it may be hard for a former LEO to counter that CTW. Although given the information in the suit and news articles I read, I think this will be settled by Walmart. The police department should suffer as well as I can't see how they would detain and handcuff the two Black men on such shoddy info. If there is solid enough info, they would have taken them in and started the criminal process. Wouldn't surprise me that this is a case of mistaken ID. Trans-racial misidentification happens all the time. Can't even believe how many times I was confused with other African Americans/Black men over the years. Almost comical were it not for the implications had I been detained.
 

Herdfan

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In this case, I think it may be hard for a former LEO to counter that CTW. Although given the information in the suit and news articles I read, I think this will be settled by Walmart. The police department should suffer as well as I can't see how they would detain and handcuff the two Black men on such shoddy info. If there is solid enough info, they would have taken them in and started the criminal process. Wouldn't surprise me that this is a case of mistaken ID. Trans-racial misidentification happens all the time. Can't even believe how many times I was confused with other African Americans/Black men over the years. Almost comical were it not for the implications had I been detained.

Can't believe Walmart didn't settle to begin with. And yes, the PD and the officers should suffer as well.
 
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Eric

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Can't believe Walmart didn't settle to begin with. And yes, the PD and the officers should suffer as well.
Back when the two black men didn't leave a Starbucks (not to go through that debate again) I asked my police buddy about that, as they just took them away in cuffs and his response was "any establishment has a right to ask for someone to be removed and no matter why we have to comply". I think they tend to have a myopic view that way but there's always room for discussion between both parties IMO.
 

Herdfan

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Back when the two black men didn't leave a Starbucks (not to go through that debate again) I asked my police buddy about that, as they just took them away in cuffs and his response was "any establishment has a right to ask for someone to be removed and no matter why we have to comply". I think they tend to have a myopic view that way but there's always room for discussion between both parties IMO.

Actually that is true. Sort of. It is called being Trespassed off the Property or whatever they call it where you live. But all it really is is formal notice that you are not to come back and be on the property. It removes the He said/She said situation as it is now of record. But there is no reason for cuffs.

I have had to do this before and the deputy simply talked to him and told him if he stepped foot back on the property he would be arrested for trespass. Two months later a camera caught him putting trash in my mom's can. Again. And the reason for the trespass off the property in the first place.
 

thekev

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CTWs are usually in larger print and clearly stated. The person signing attests to the fact that they are not signing under duress and that they understand the implication of signing.

You can't meaningfully attest that you are not under duress while under duress. If you're made to sign something under duress, it doesn't matter that it says you're not under duress. That in itself eliminates any ability to even meaningfully discuss duress.

Trans-racial misidentification happens all the time. Can't even believe how many times I was confused with other African Americans/Black men over the years. Almost comical were it not for the implications had I been detained.

That one could actually happen to me in cases where I don't know a large number of people of a particular race. I am not confident of my ability to identify strangers in general though.
 

ronntaylor

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You can't meaningfully attest that you are not under duress while under duress. If you're made to sign something under duress, it doesn't matter that it says you're not under duress. That in itself eliminates any ability to even meaningfully discuss duress.
Unfortunately, too many believe that wording. It's obviously duress. But too many are willing to believe LEOs and security folk over someone deemed suspicious for whatever reason. Again, one of the men is a former LEO. That will weigh heavily. Unless there is no evidence to suggest these two Black did anything wrong and Walmart settles. Their lawyers are well known and highly competent. I don't see this ending well for the store and its employees.
 
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