With her camera rolling, a California woman filmed the moment she and her family were followed and harassed by a WinCo Foods employee she says falsely accused them of theft.
Deja Paterson shared video of the incident Tuesday, March 17, depicting a man who claimed to be a store supervisor tailing her mother, her cousin and herself through the Pittsburg, California, grocer, at times blocking and even strong-arming their shopping buggy.
“At this point, we’re refusing service because you’re trying to steal,” he says, accusing the women of swapping an expensive item, lemons specifically, for a lesser priced one.”We reserve the right … we’re not selling to you.”
Patterson, 24, denies this, however, and says she feels the incident was racially motivated.
“Tonight March 16 at WINCO IN PITTSBURG, my mom, cousin & I were RACIALLY PROFILED, FOLLOWED, HARASSED & ASSAULTED by Kenny (who would not reveal his last name),” she wrote in an Instagram post, accompanied by a nearly eight-minute clip of the bizarre confrontation.
In the video, the alleged supervisor is heard threatening to call the police multiple times, at one point accusing the trio of “acting crazy” and “causing a disturbance.”
But the women insist he was the aggressor.
“He’d approached us and ACCUSED us all of stealing lemons,” Patterson recalled. “He then went to assault my mother by pushing her arm AND myself by pushing a shopping cart up against my body and ran over my foot. He then caused a scene in the store and had us escorted out by police for NOTHING AT ALL.”
Patterson, who lives about 30 miles away in nearby Castro Valley, explained she and her family had settled on shopping at the WinCo Foods in Pittsburg because all the grocers near them had been wiped clean by frantic residents hoping to stock up amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“Grocery stores here are scarce; we knew that going to WinCo, we would find most likely what we need,” she told MadameNoire, adding that they called the store beforehand to make sure it was stocked.
Once there, the ladies visited the produce section, but couldn’t find the clear plastic bags. After looking around, they asked a store clerk who confirmed they were all out. So, Patterson said they “improvised,” emptying a bag of grapefruits and filling it with lemons.
The clerk who assisted them earlier then informed the women they would have to walk to the back of the store to retrieve a plastic produce bag. They complied, but as they were headed that way, supervisor “Kenny” appeared and began accosting them.
“When he came from behind us, he immediately swarmed in and stuck his hand directly in our cart, and rummaged through the rest of our groceries that were in our full basket and removed the lemons, saying immediately, ‘You guys are stealing and lost prevention has called this in and you have to leave,’ ” Patterson told the outlet.
“He didn’t even introduce himself at all,” she added. “We knew nothing of what position he was, who he was, where he came from, if he was loss prevention, nothing,”
The video shows the women trying to navigate around the supervisor as he continues harassing them, following the group around the store for several minutes while ignoring their demands to see a manager.
“I’m the boss,” he tells them.
At one point, the store’s security officer gets involved. The initial clerk who advised them to grab a separate bag also comes back into the frame, only to corroborate Kenny’s theft claims.
“So were we stealing?” the women asked, shocked. “Were we stealing?”
The ordeal ended once authorities arrived and escorted the women from the store. Patterson said two officers informed her that Kenny had made a “citizen’s arrest,” and insisted they were only complying with WinCo’s policy. However, the young woman said she thinks the issue is much deeper than that.
“It just felt like so much racism, it just felt like so much racial profiling,” she told MadameNoire, adding: “I felt like we were targeted and I don’t want to be targeted ever.”
She would later post video of the incident to Instagram, and criticized what she describes as the “highly unacceptable” treatment she and her family received.
“I’m still in shock and disbelief that this disgusting and clearly RACIST individual treats customers this way because in his words ‘They deal with theft all the time,’ ” she wrote.
Patterson confirmed to Atlanta Black Star that she’s been in contact with WinCo corporate and has since retained a lawyer. At this point, the young woman says all her family wants is accountability and a public apology.
“The correct response, I think, would be to have Kenny and the other gentleman fired and to have better training going forward because this doesn’t have to happen again,” she added.
ABS also reached out to WinCo Foods for comment and is awaiting a response.
Watch the full video below.