National gym chain L.A. Fitness is making headlines yet again, this time after a Charlotte man claimed he was racially profiled and accused of crimes he didn’t commit.
Ralston Masaniai said he was accused of breaking into lockers and stealing credit cards at the popular fitness center only to find out they had the wrong guy, local station WCNC reported. Masaniai said he was approached by police who said he fit the description of the suspect in question.
After a ride to the police station, the man said he was questioned by a female detective who used check-in logs from the gym to nab him as the alleged culprit. Masaniai said he noticed something was a bit strange, however.
“As I compared it to what she had, I noticed there was a three-hour difference on every single day,” Masaniai told the station. “That is when I noticed, what she had printed out and recorded was the times and Pacific time versus Eastern time … And she realized she made a mistake.”
He was officially free to go.
Authorities later cleared Masaniai in the crimes after catching the real culprit, Tabari Grant — a known career criminal with an extensive rap sheet and over a dozen mugshots, WCNC reported.
Though he was released, Masaniai said he believes racial bias was definitely at play when he was accused of stealing from the gym. This is the second time the national fitness chain has been thrust into the spotlight over claims of racial profiling and discrimination.
In April, two Black men had the police called on them after workers accused them of using the gym without having proper memberships. One of the men was a gym member while his friend was using a four-day buddy pass.
“This L.A. Fitness manager who refused to give us his reason to [kick] us out, and refused to give us his name stated that I’m now banned from the gym and [that] my friend’s gym membership has been terminated effective immediately,” victim Tshyrad Oates wrote in a Facebook post. “This is ridiculous … [my friend] felt racially profiled and embarrassed.”
Video of the men being escorted out by police went viral on social media, sparking outrage. L.A. Fitness later released a statement saying that the three employees involved were fired.
As for Masaniai, the local realtor has since hired a lawyer who is seeking a $50,000 out of court settlement. Masaniai said this is about more than money, however.
“It’s about change. It’s about changing the way they do things, it’s about getting rid of the profiling, the prejudices and those things have to be removed,” he told the station.