An African-American man in Wisconsin is demanding an apology after he says he was racially profiled while trying to return blinds to a Home Depot store in Wauwatosa.
Terrance Westmoreland was hoping to exchange the blinds after realizing they weren’t the shade he wanted. With his receipt in hand, he compared the blinds to find the correct shade before walking to the customer service desk to return the two boxes and buy three others, according to the Journal Sentinel.
That’s when the Milwaukee man said he was approached by a loss prevention officer named Ricky.
“Before I could even finish, this Caucasian security guard kind of grabbed my arm,” Westmoreland told the newspaper.
Detailing the July 24 incident, he wrote on Facebook that he went with the officer, as instructed, only to be accused of trying to make an illegal return.
“He said I came in the store with nothing,” Westmoreland said. “But I had two boxes.”
When he asked officials to check the store’s surveillance, which would prove his innocence, he was told they didn’t have access to the footage. That’s when Westmoreland decided to dial Wauwatosa Police.
“If I stole something and I’m wrong, let justice prevail and let me be punished,” he told the Journal Sentinel.
Police investigated the incident and found Westmoreland had done nothing wrong, according to paper. In their report, officers said Westmoreland, who owns his own business, was accused of trying to fraudulently return three boxes of blinds and that there appeared to be a miscommunication between the loss prevention officer and the customer service clerk.
On Facebook, Westmoreland said the clerk said the loss prevention officer interrupted while she was trying to explain that he was making an exchange.
Westmoreland was neither arrested or detained in the incident. Yet, that wasn’t enough for Home Depot officials, who asked him to leave and banned him from the store for allegedly stealing.
“I don’t steal; I won’t steal. And I don’t condone stealing or teach my kids to steal,” he said.
According to the Journal Sentinel, a district manager from The Home Depot called Westmoreland two days later to apologize and rescind the ban. That did little to satisfy the Milawuakee man, who’s now demanding the security officer lose his job.
Moreover, Westmoreland is seeking reimbursement of the money he lost on jobs since being accused of shoplifting as well as the embarrassment he’s suffered from the incident
“I honestly feel there have been other African-Americans that have been profiled in that store,” he told the Journal Sentinel.
In a statement to Atlanta Black Star, the Home Depot confirmed that both the store manager and district manager have contacted Westmoreland in the wake of the incident and denied that he had been banned.
“There was a misunderstanding about Mr. Westmorland’s return,” a company spokeswoman said. “We take these complaints very seriously and would not tolerate profiling. We have measures and training to help avoid that from happening. We’re very sorry for any embarrassment caused to Mr. Westmoreland.”
Westmoreland said he hasn’t been back to The Home Depot since the ban was lifted — and doesn’t plan on it.