A Black Maryland couple has filed a racial discrimination after being stopped by police following a routine visit to Costco earlier this year.
Barbara and Bahri Wallace were shopping for a refrigerator at a Costco store in Anne Arundel County, where the loyal customers said they shop two to three times each week and even purchased their car there.
“We had a love relationship with them, we’ve been members since 2007,” Barbara Wallace told WJLA.
Things turned sour, however, when an officer pulled them over shortly after they’d left the parking lot.
“I said, ‘What did I do?'” Bahri Wallace told WBAL-TV, recalling the May incident. “He said, ‘A manager at Costco said you guys were shoplifting.’ I said, ‘Shoplifting?’ At that point, I had asked him did he want to search my truck. I said, ‘We didn’t shoplift anything.'”
Barbara Wallace said the incident left her feeling scared for her husband as she urged him to keep his hands where the officer could see them.
“Let’s just say, even if it wasn’t this situation, when you get pulled over by the police and you are African-American, there is a lot to think about and you have to be careful how you conduct yourself,” she said. “I was afraid for my husband at that point.”
The couple was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing but were shocked to learn that the initial call that put the fuzz on their tail was for a robbery in progress. The Costco manager who placed the call described the “suspects” as a Black male and female and also provided officers with a tag number matching the Wallace’s truck, police records show.
In a statement, Costco executives said the managers mistook the couple for suspects involved in an ink cartridge theft ring, saying they matched the description because of Barbara Wallace’s blue purse. They flatly refuted the racial profiling claims.
Bahri Wallace said he and his wife returned to the store, where they spoke to a white manager about why they had been singled out and falsely accused.
“(The) manager came up. I said, ‘Did you call the police on us saying we were shoplifting?’ His response was, ‘You fit the bill,’ ” he recalled. “I said, ‘Fit the bill?’ And he said, ‘African-American male and female, and your wife is carrying a blue purse. We have been having some problems with ink cartridges, and you fit the bill.”
In the end, Costco blamed police for stopping the couple, saying a staff member relayed to officers that there was no reason to detain the Wallaces. A spokesperson for Anne Arundel County police fired back, calling the store’s report “misleading” and “wrong.”
The Wallaces’ are seeking $4 million in damages.
Watch more in the clip below.