The owner of a Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt shop in Kirkland, Washington is apologizing after calling police on an African-American man he wanted to leave his store.
In a statement, franchisee Ramon Cruz said he was “truly sorry” for what happened when Byron Ragland, a court-appointed special advocate, visited the yogurt shop to supervise a visit between a mother and her 12-year-old son.
Ragland, 31, sat at a separate table as the mother and child caught up. Two white women workers grew nervous when he didn’t purchase anything, however, prompting them to call Cruz, who then dialed 911. Minutes later, Kirkland officers arrived to remove the “unwanted subject.”
“I humbly apologize to Mr. Ragland for what he experienced during his visit,” Cruz said in a statement. “This does not reflect my values, and I’m genuinely sorry. We’re in the process of reaching out to Mr. Ragland with a formal apology.”
He added: “I would also like to humbly apologize to everyone, as events such as these affect us all. I am sorry, and I and my team will learn and grow from this. We will work hard together to make sure that this will not happen again.”
Ragland, who was left shaken and upset by the incident, called his experience a clear case of racial profiling. He said the Menchie’s employees never mentioned their concerns to him. Instead, his first sign of trouble was when a pair of officers approached his table and asked him to leave the store.
“Ragland had two associates (female adult and male juvenile) with him, who stated they were there with him for visitation,” according to the police report. “They were asked to leave anyway, and they did.”
In a 911 recording, Cruz is heard telling the dispatcher his employees are scared because Ragland “looks suspicious” and “just keeps looking at the phone and looking at them.”
Kirkland city officials were perturbed by the incident and said something like this should’ve never happened.
“We felt that we needed to issue an apology,” said Kellie Stickney, a spokeswoman for the city of Kirkland.
According to KOMO News, the city has since launched an investigation and plans to review its training protocols for its police officers. Still, some critics say that isn’t enough and blasted the city and Cruz for discriminating Ragland.
“Let’s call it what it is. It’s implicit bias,” said Mark Morgenstern, who picketed outside Menchie’s on Monday. “It’s feeding into this narrative of the scary Black man.”
“That’s all it takes in America — for you to be Black, and to be somewhere you’re not supposed to be,” the U.S. Air Force veteran told The Seattle Times. “And where you’re supposed to be is not up to you. It’s up to somebody else’s opinion.”
On Tuesday, Ragland was joined by members of the King County NAACP for a press conference and protest outside Menchie’s.
Watch more in the clip below.