U.S.

Black Couple Files $4 Million Lawsuit Against Costco After White Manager Said They 'Fit The Bill' Of Other Shoplifters

A black couple is suing a Costco store in Maryland after police stopped them after an employee accused them of shoplifting.

Barbara and Bahri Wallace told WJLA on Friday they were shopping at the Costco in Anne Arundel County in Maryland in May when they claimed they were being watched by management. In the 911 call obtained by WJLA, the caller claims there is a robbery in progress.

"I need police immediately at the Costco wholesale," the caller said, according to WJLA. "I have a robbery in progress. They’ve been here before. They just robbed the Glen Burnie Costco an hour ago."

The Wallaces told WJLA that they were leaving the store when they noticed the police were behind them.

gettyimages-503469344-594x594 A Costco Wholesale warehouse location in Woodbridge, Virginia, on January 5, 2016. A black couple is suing Costco for racial profiling after they said the police were called on them while shopping in May. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

"[Bahri] noticed there were police behind us," Barbara told the news station. "So he said 'The police is pulling us over' and I said 'Are they for us?' He said, 'Yeah they're pulling us over. And I asked why they stopping us, he said 'The manager at Costco suspected you guys of shoplifting.'"

Police records obtained by WBAL-TV found that the officers were given a tag number that belonged to the couple's truck. The records also found that police determined no crime had been committed and the Wallaces weren't involved in a robbery. The Wallaces then went back inside to confront the white manager of the Costco.

“[The] manager came up. I said, 'Did you call the police on us saying we were shoplifting?' His response was, 'You fit the bill.' I said, 'Fit the bill?' And he said, 'African-American male and female, and your wife is carrying a blue purse,'" Bahri Wallace told WBAL-TV.

Costco executives told WBAL-TV the store manager was not racially profiling the couple and thought the couple matched the description of two other people shoplifting at other Costco stores because of Barbara’s blue purse.

"Law enforcement, not Costco, made the decision to execute the stop ... Its staff communicated to a patrol officer that it had not found reason to detain the Wallaces," the store said in a statement to the news station.

Anne Arundel County police said in a statement to WBAL-TV that Costco’s statement about the incident is misleading, and that the employees were still trying to figure out if there was a crime that had been committed.

“As can be heard in the radio transmissions at the time of the stop, Costco was still attempting to determine if a crime was actually committed,” the statement from the department read. “It was in no way relayed that a stop should not have been made."

The Wallaces are suing the company for $4 million in damages, WBAL-TV reported. Chris Griffiths, the attorney representing the couple, told the news station that this was more than just a simple mistake.

"Employees can come to the job with certain biases. Corporations, particularly of this size, are responsible for training individuals,” Griffiths told the news station. “If they are a responsible company, they train individuals to deal with those types of bias. Whether or not Costco has such a program, we don't know, but it's something we intend to find out."

A similar incident occurred in August after a pregnant woman claimed that she was accused of shoplifting a Staples in North Carolina. Bates, who is black and carrying twins at the time, told WSCO-TV that a uniformed, off-duty police officer working at the store asked her to lift her shirt because they believed she was “concealing merchandise.”

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