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A Black officer went to Walmart on his day off. He was racially profiled and accused of stealing, lawsuit says.

(Matt Rourke/AP)
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In September, David Conners walked into the Walmart Supercenter he regularly frequented in Fayetteville, Ga., to buy some items for his new home on his day off.

The Clayton County Detention Center officer, who is Black, was strolling the aisles in search of a new stereo when a Walmart employee cut his shopping trip short, his attorney, Terance Madden, told The Washington Post in an interview.

The store’s chief loss-prevention officer referred to Conners as “Mr. Wright” — a man who had reportedly been seen shoplifting at that Walmart on multiple occasions, according to a lawsuit Conners filed this month. The loss-prevention officer proceeded to call her store manager.

The Walmart employee also called the Fayetteville Police Department to report that “Mr. Wright” was back in the store, the lawsuit states. When police arrived, Conners gave officers his driver’s license and work badge to prove they had the wrong man, according to court records.

Despite that, Conners was handcuffed and detained in the store’s loss-prevention office for about 30 minutes, Madden said. He was released only after Fayetteville officers FaceTimed the detective investigating the shoplifting incidents, who confirmed Conners was not the man they were searching for, court records state.

Now, Conners is suing Walmart and two employees, including the chief loss-prevention officer, alleging he was racially profiled and mistakenly detained despite providing documents that verified his identity.

“They only stopped him because he was big and he was Black,” Madden, his attorney, told The Post.

Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesman, told The Post the company takes the allegations seriously.

“We don’t tolerate discrimination of any kind,” Hargrove said. “We are not going to comment further on this pending litigation.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in the State Court of Clayton County, does not mention the race of the loss-prevention officer.

A woman sued Walmart after she stepped on a nail and needed her leg amputated. A jury awarded her $10 million.

On Sept. 30, Conners went to Walmart after he had finished mowing his lawn, his attorney told The Post. Shortly after, he was mistaken for the accused shoplifter — a man police already had an arrest warrant for. Perplexed, Conners told the Walmart employee he was a corrections officer, not the shoplifter, his attorney said.

Conners repeated the same to police when they got to the store.

“I’m not him,” Conners said, according to his attorney. “Why are you arresting me? I know my rights.”

Conners was then told he would be taken to the store’s loss-prevention office while police investigated, according to court records.

“Fayetteville Police officers intercepted Conners, surrounded him, embarrassed him and escorted him, in full view of other shoppers, into the store’s Loss Prevention Office,” the lawsuit states.

There, Madden told The Post, his client spent a “considerable amount” of time waiting to be released.

“They [police] had the arrest warrant, the name and the picture of the person who [had] actually shoplifted, yet my client remained in handcuffs in what I call ‘Walmart jail’ while they continued to investigate,” Madden said.

Conners’s lawyer said his client was diagnosed with mild post-traumatic stress disorder following the incident. He hasn’t visited that store since.

“It made him feel humiliated,” Madden told The Post. “He stopped going to Walmart. It’s definitely affected him and his life.”

Neither the company nor the employees present during the incident have apologized for mistaking Conners for a shoplifter, Madden said.

“At this point, they haven’t ever admitted fault,” he said. “We see no other choice but to have a jury decide the value of this ordeal.”

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