Two Black men are suing Walmart for discrimination after alleging that police handcuffed them at the store while they were trying to return a television last year.
Dennis Stewart and Terence Richardson were visiting the Walmart in Conroe, Texas, on Sept. 10, 2020 to return a defective television when they said white Walmart employees accused them of stealing. The staff allegedly called the police.
The men allege in the federal lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of Texas that they were placed in handcuffs despite Stewart showing Walmart employees the receipt for the television.
“The police showed up, detained, and handcuffed both Dennis and Terence in front of the store where other store customers looked on as they entered and exited the store,” the suit says.
The lawsuit alleges that employees took an hour to examine the receipt, and while the men were at the customer service counter, four white police officers “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, a church deacon and former police officer, and Richardson, a church pastor, alleged that they were wrongfully imprisoned and discriminated against due to their race. Stewart said in the lawsuit that he felt so degraded after being put in handcuffs that he broke down inside the Walmart.
After Stewart and Richardson were released from the handcuffs, a female Walmart employee allegedly screamed at them to take the TV and get the “f— out of this store, and never come f—— back,” according to the lawsuit.
The men are also alleging breach of contract in the lawsuit, since Stewart was not permitted to exchange the item or get a refund.
“We do not tolerate discrimination and take allegations like this seriously,” Walmart said in a statement provided to NBC. “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 men have requested a jury trial as well as compensatory and punitive damages, according to the suit.