Black corrections officer sues Walmart, alleges profiling after being handcuffed and mistaken for shoplifter




  • In US
  • 2022-01-26 17:42:54Z
  • By NBC News
 

A corrections officer in Georgia has filed a lawsuit against Walmart, claiming he was racially profiled as a shoplifting suspect and handcuffed for no reason other than being "big and Black."

David Conners, an officer at the Clayton County Detention Center, was shopping for items for his new home on or about Sept. 30 at a Walmart in Fayetteville, about 22 miles south of Atlanta, when he was stopped, according to the lawsuit filed earlier this month.

The Walmart store's chief loss prevention officer misidentified Conners as a suspect who had shoplifted at the store on multiple occasions, the lawsuit stated.

Conners' lawyer, Terance Madden, told NBC News on Wednesday that officials knew the name of the shoplifting suspect, had photos of him and an active warrant.

Conners was on the phone when police approached him and asked his name, according to his lawyer.

He said his name and identified himself as law enforcement, producing his driver's license and his work ID.

The loss prevention officer contacted the Fayetteville Police Department, who arrived at the store, "surrounded him, embarrassed him and escorted him, in full view of other shoppers, into the store's Loss Prevention Office," the lawsuit says.

He was then put in handcuffs with his hands behind his back, according to the lawsuit.

Once in the office, he was shown a photo of the suspect, who was wearing a face mask, and Conners continued to deny it was him, Madden said.

"It's not me, you've got my identification, you know who I am. You can call over and ask. I don't even shoplift," Conners told the officers and staff, according to Madden.

Conners also pointed out that he has noticeable tattoos visible on his arms and the suspect did not.

Madden said Conners was targeted due to racial profiling and "this can happen to anyone."

"One of the officers said, trying to make excuses of why he was misidentified, 'Well, you're about the same build.' That means the only identifying that they did on him was that he was big and he was Black," Madden said.

Eventually, the lead Fayetteville police investigator in the case of the shoplifter was called. Madden said the officers then practically put Connors in a "line-up" by putting him on FaceTime with the investigator, who said he wasn't the suspect.

Conners was then un-cuffed and let go. In total, the incident lasted about 30 minutes, Madden said.

"He's thinking, 'I'm an officer, I identified myself as such. I was stopped for no reason.' His mind is everywhere," Madden said.

Madden said neither police involved nor store employees apologized for the incident.

Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove told NBC News: "We don't tolerate discrimination of any kind and take allegations like this seriously. We are not going to comment further on this pending litigation."

Fayetteville police did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The department and its officers are not named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Madden said Conners was "highly affected" by the incident and no longer goes to that Walmart, which he used to frequent.

The lawsuit states Conners sustained physical injuries due to being handcuffed and sought professional counseling to cope with mental and psychological trauma from the incident.

The lawsuit, filed in Clayton County, seeks recovery of damages for injuries suffered and punitive damages.

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