Two Black men are accusing a Texas Walmart store of racial discrimination after they said they were handcuffed and detained on suspicion of theft while they were trying to return a faulty television they had purchased from the retail outlet.
According to NBC News, the incident occurred at a Walmart store in Conroe last year. And in a federal lawsuit that was filed on Thursday, the plaintiffs, Terence Richardson and Dennis Stewart, allege White employees of the store falsely accused them of stealing a television during the encounter. The suit was filed against Walmart Stores Texas, LLC, and other employees of the retail outlet.
The men said the police were called on them and they ended up being handcuffed despite Stewart showing them a receipt to prove he had actually purchased the Hisense television they were trying to return. The Black plaintiffs claim race played a factor in the incident and they were falsely imprisoned. They added that Stewart, 55, became emotional over their treatment and he ended up crying at a certain point of the encounter.
“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 states, adding that their questions fell on deaf ears.
“It was at this point Dennis — a grown 50+year old man — began to cry and begged for answers,” the suit said. Stewart is a church deacon and former police officer while 53-year-old Richardson is a pastor.
Besides the racial discrimination allegation, the men are also accusing the defendants of breach of contract as the faulty television Stewart was trying to return wasn’t replaced. His money wasn’t also refunded despite that. The plaintiffs also say the employees’ actions were negligent as police involvement could have aggravated the incident.
“Officers could have mistaken the situation and, as Black men, they could have been shot, injured or permanently disfigured,” the suit said.
The suit states that the receipt Stewart presented at the customer service counter was scrutinized by the store’s employees for an hour. And while waiting, the men were confronted by four white police officers. The officers allegedly “approached them from behind and instructed them to put their hands on their head, ordered them not to move, searched their bodies and emptied their pockets, and handcuffed them as criminals in plain view of everyone at the vicinity.”
Stewart broke down and cried for about an hour while they were being held, the suit states, per NBC News. And though the handcuffs were later removed, the suit said a female employee told them to get the “f— out of this store, and never come f—— back.” The employee also allegedly yelled at them to leave with the faulty television.
The plaintiffs also said they were made to sign a “Criminal Trespass Warning” that will see them being charged if they return to the store. Responding to the lawsuit in a statement on Friday, Walmart said they “do not tolerate discrimination and take allegations like this seriously.”
“When the claims were brought to our attention in April of this year, we investigated them. We are not getting into further detail given the litigation and will respond as appropriate with the court,” the statement added.
Besides demanding compensation and punitive damages, the plaintiffs also want a jury trial.