Washington Police Ignore Black Man’s Explanation About His Job After a White Yogurt Shop Employee Says He’s Making Her Uncomfortable

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A Black man said he’s shaken and upset after having the police called on him during a visit to a Kirkland, Washington frozen yogurt shop last week.

Byron Ragland arrived at Menchie’s Yogurt Shop on Wednesday with a woman and a 12-year-old child, whose court-ordered visit he was supervising, local station KIRO 7 reported. Store surveillance video shows Ragland, who’s both a court-appointed special advocate and a visitation supervisor, sitting in the corner of the store as the mother and son catch up with one another.

Byron Ragland
Byron Ragland was asked to “move along” after the store owner called 911 to report an “unwanted subject.” (Images courtesy of Danny Westneat / The Seattle Times and KIRO 7)

“Just being a fly on the wall type of thing is what I do,” he told the station. “Sit on back and just watch them visit, you know document the visit.”

Moments later, Ragland said two police officers approached his table and asked him to “move along,” an incident he believes was triggered by race.

“Definitely thought it was profiling and discrimination,” Ragland recalled. “Pretty much I looked up, and these two police officers [are] standing in front, from what I remember there, and the first comments were we need to leave the premises.”

In an interview with The Seattle Times, Ragland, 31, said he explained to Kirkland Police Department officers that he was there working, as his job legally required him to be there to oversee the mother-son meeting. He was still asked to leave, however.

“Ragland had two associates (female adult and male juvenile) with him, who stated they were there with him for visitation,” the police report states. “They were asked to leave anyway, and they did.”

Ragland and his clients left the store without incident.

Ragland later learned it was Ramon Cruz, the store’s owner, who called police after one of his employees texted him about a “suspicious” man at the store. Per an “unwanted subject” report, the “Store employees … told me that he had been in the store for a while and didn’t buy anything, and he was not making them feel comfortable.”

The employees, who the police report identified as female and white, were fearful because “all he (Ragland) does is look at his phone, look at them, look at his phone, look at them,” Cruz told the 911 dispatcher.

Cruz went on to explain that he’s had some problems at his store lately, including a robbery and an incident where a customer became violent and started throwing chairs. He insisted the call wasn’t racially-motivated, however, but more so about ensuring safety.

“Now I know that was a mistake,” Cruz told KIRO 7, calling the incident a simple “misunderstanding.” “I should not have associated previous incidents in our other stores.”

He added: “We didn’t look at it as he was Black.”

Ragland begged to differ, saying he found it hard to believe his skin color didn’t play a role in the cops being called on him.

“You listen to that 911 call. (Cruz) says right in there that I’m not doing anything,” Ragland told The Seattle Times. “But that’s all it takes in America — for you to be Black, and to be somewhere you’re not supposed to be. And where you’re supposed to be is not up to you. It’s up to somebody else’s opinion.”

Ragland, a nine-year Air Force Veteran, said he now wants accountability — not an apology.

Hear more of the 911 call below:

 

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