(FAYETTEVILLE, Ga.) — A Black law enforcement officer is alleging that he was racially profiled in a Georgia Walmart store after he was handcuffed and wrongfully accused of shoplifting — and now he’s suing.
David Conners, a Clayton County corrections officer, said he was shopping for home decor when a Fayetteville Police Department officer stopped him in his tracks, saying employees believed he was a man with the last name “Wright” who had repeatedly stolen electronics from the store.
“He’s just in the store, minding his own business, when he’s approached by the police, and everything went downhill from there,” Terance Madden, an attorney for Conners, told ABC News in an interview.
According to the lawsuit, officers handcuffed him while investigating claims by Walmart employees that he was the serial shoplifter. Madden said a warrant already had been issued for that individual.
Conners gave the arresting officers two pieces of identification — one of which showed he was a local correction officer — but he was still taken to another room and held while officers investigated, the lawsuit said.
Officers showed Conners footage of the shoplifter that employees thought was him. Conners pointed out that he has visible tattoos, while the alleged shoplifter didn’t. But it wasn’t until officers called someone familiar with the case who confirmed Conners wasn’t the shoplifter that he was released, according to the lawsuit.
In a statement to ABC News, 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.”
Conners said he’s since sought professional counseling to cope with the mental and psychological trauma that he says was brought about as a result of this incident. He said neither Walmart nor the employee who called the police has apologized for the incident.
Conners also said the incident has given him a new perspective on the prevalence and impact of racial profiling, as a law enforcement officer himself.
“You see it all the time, but you never believe it’s going to happen to you until it happens to you,” Madden added. “It becomes personal, and a violation is something you can’t help to think about over and over and over again when it happens to you.”
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