Despite Walmart’s ongoing commitment to diversity as an organization, employees at one store in Georgia have been accused of racially profiling one of their customers.
Monique Beals of The Hill reported that “David Conners, a Clayton County corrections officer, was stopped and handcuffed by a Fayetteville police officer while he was shopping for home decor. Employees believed Conners was someone with the last name Wright who had repeatedly stolen electronics from the store.”
In an interview with ABC News, Conners’ attorney Terance Madden said Conners was in the store minding his own business until the police approached him.
Madden said that his client gave the officers two forms of identification, including one that showed he worked at a local corrections facility. Still, he was detained for a significant time at the store while the responding officers investigated.
As Marlene Lenthang of NBC News wrote, the incident became a major spectacle in the store.
“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,’” she said.
NBC’s Beal wrote that footage of the shoplifter showed he did not have visible tattoos while Conners did.
“But it was not until officers called someone else familiar with the case, who confirmed that Conners was not the shoplifter, that the corrections officer was released,” she said.
In a statement, Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove said: “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 also responded to the incident, releasing a statement saying, “Mr. Conners fit the description of a repeat offender that had been targeting this specific Walmart in the eyes of the 911 caller. To complicate matters, both the suspect and Mr. Conners have similar builds and were both wearing COVID protective masks. We did briefly detain Mr. Conners to investigate the alleged crime. This detention occurred outside of the public’s view in the LP office located in Walmart.”
However, Beals said that the whole incident had left Conners “highly affected,” concerned about his reputation and no longer able to frequent a store he used to go to often. In a lawsuit filed in the case, Conners said he sustained physical injuries while being handcuffed and has been forced to seek out professional counseling “to cope with mental and psychological trauma.” He is seeking recovery of damages and punitive damages in the case.
Madden succinctly explained why he was leading the case and why Conners deserved retribution: “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.”