Police video shows Arizona officers surrounding a Black man at a credit union after being erroneously told he was attempting to get money from the financial institution with a fraudulent check. The manager called the police before fully verifying the check with the person that wrote it.
According to 12 News, the incident happened in October 2021, after Almond Brewer’s check for $3,200 was not clearly authenticated at the Pinal County Federal Credit Union in Apache Junction. When the check did not read in the system, the branch manager called the police, believing the young man was scamming.
Although the manager reported the check was fake, that was never the case.
When the check was run through a third-party vendor to be authenticated, it came back “inconclusive.” The company was not able to say whether it was real or fake.
That nuanced detail was never given to the police when they were called to the credit union and arrived ready to detain a man they thought was involved in criminal activity.
Police bodycam video shows some of the exchanges between Apache Junction police officers and the bank client, with Brewer saying, “Wow. This blows my mind.”
Brewer, who believes he was racially profiled, said that he got the check from a woman he sold his boat to on Facebook Marketplace.
He tried to cash it at his personal bank but was told it would be faster to cash it at the credit union — since the check appeared to be issued from that institution.
Once Brewer gave the check to the manager and shared the instructions he was given, the manager allegedly looked at him oddly before calling the police.
She asked him, “What was the check for?”
He answered, “It was for one of my assets. I buy and sell boats, and I sold them off.”
Brewer continued, saying, “She kinda looked surprised.”
The check apparently had “red flags” that made the manager suspicious, including an old logo of the credit union, as the wrong routing and checking account number that did not line up with the member’s information.
The manager’s call was released, and he is heard saying, “We have someone trying to cash a fake check with us. Yes, it’s a fake personal check.”
The dispatcher asked, “What does he look like?”
“Um … He’s African-American,” he said.
The credit union says if the third-party verification party is unable to authenticate a check the employee should have first reached out to the account holder for verification. This was a process not followed until after 911 set off alarms.
Once the manager reached the account holder, the check was verified, and Brewer should have been let go.
Bodycam shows the officers were not made aware of this update until about 10 minutes into their detainment of Brewer.
Before becoming aware, Brewer tried to state his case saying, “How can it be fraud, when she wrote it, signed it and she’s a member of this bank?”
However, with the ordeal happening in public, Brewer says he was embarrassed by the incident and believes that it was racially motivated.
“It was just, ‘Oh, you know, Black guy, locs in his hair, tattoos, came on a Harley, you know, let’s assume the worst,’” Brewer said. “Why embarrass somebody like that? Why, you know, make them feel less than a man.”
An expert in bank services, Matthew Whitaker, the owner of Diamond Strategies LLC, says he was indeed “racially profiled” and said that the manager should have called the customer immediately.
He further asked, “Why escalate that at that point?”
Amy Marshall, the president and CEO of the credit union, released a statement in January on the case. She did not answer that question, saying that “at no time did the staff feel threatened or feel Mr. Brewer was trying to rob the credit union.”
She also wanted it to be known that the manager has apologized to Brewer for the mix-up.
Brewer claims that he has not “been inside a bank since” the incident.