Employees at a California supermarket called the police on a Black woman who was simply donating food to a homeless man.
The employees accused her and her family of being involved in an alleged grocery heist.
Erika Martin told the Daily News she was in the parking lot of the Mountain View Safeway July 8 to give a homeless man food for his dog with her sisters Faith and Ashley when she was approached by two police cars.
Martin said she explained to the officers what she was doing, and they asked if she was waiting on someone, like a husband, to exit the store – which she was not. She said the officer then told Martin someone had been stealing items from the store, and that the suspect was wearing a blue spaghetti strap shirt.
“I said, ‘What! Wait, are you kidding me?’ I never even stepped foot inside of Safeway, I was in my car the whole entire time I was there,” she wrote, noting that she was not wearing the spaghetti strap shirt in question.
A spokesperson for the Mountain View Police Department told the Daily News it received a phone call from the store that day reporting a possible theft in progress. When police arrived, employees identified a male, a female and several children they believed were connected with the alleged theft.
The spokesperson said when police spoke with the accused group, they were “extremely helpful” and “cooperative,” and cops quickly determined no crime had been committed.
The heavily redacted incident report says employees believed Martin was taking goods out of the store and that children were “grabbing goods from the shelves” and bringing them back to an awaiting car.
Martin said the accused children were her 13-year-old niece, 11-year-old nephew and 9-year-old son, who had entered the store to use the bathroom.
She also said the incident greatly affected her son, who had sought free cookie samples from the bakery during the bathroom break, as he frequently does.
“He broke down in tears as if he was afraid for his life,” Martin said of her son’s “confession.” “He said, ‘I didn’t mean to do anything wrong. I didn’t steal anything, mom’… He thought he did something wrong. He thought the police were going to arrest him for looking behind the counter. To see my child in so much fear broke my heart.”
She said the incident was especially hurtful as she frequents the store and is known to employees.
“We were there to do a good deed and we left feeling humiliated, embarrassed, hurt and shocked,” she wrote.
A representative for Safeway said in a statement that the police were called concerning an “adult male with a history of suspected shoplifting” at the story. The rep said it was “not entirely clear” why the police spoke to Martin, and that an internal investigation had been launched.
“Safeway is committed to fostering an environment of treating everyone with courtesy, dignity, and respect. We have strong policies against racial discrimination and we do not tolerate violations to the policy,” the statement read. “Safeway contacted Ms. Martin to sincerely apologize for the misunderstanding and we look forward to continuing the discussion regarding her concerns. “
Martin said she received an apology from a store employee who was not working the day of the incident, but is still awaiting a call from the location’s two managers and the company’s corporate offices.
“It’s like they don’t care, they’re brushing it under the rug,” she said, adding that she was also racially profiled at a PetCo in October. “I’m so tired of the craziness in this world.”
Safeway’s going to have to do a LOT better than that. This is completely unacceptable.