A Black couple targeted as shoplifters while shopping at a Costco in Anne Arundel County, Md., are suing the company for $4 million in damages, saying they were watched by management as they shopped for a refrigerator.
The couple, Barbara and Bahri Wallace, were even more appalled to learn that police were summoned to the store when the caller told police a robbery was in progress.
“I need police immediately at the Costco wholesale,” the caller said, WJLA-TV (Channel 7) reported. “I have a robbery in progress. They’ve been here before. They just robbed the Glen Burnie Costco an hour ago.”
Police officers were then given the license plate number of the couple’s truck and pulled them over as they were leaving. After police quickly determined that no crime had been committed, the couple went back inside the store to confront the manager.
Bahri told reporters that he asked, “Did you call the police on us saying we were shoplifting?” The manager’s response, Bahri said, was, “You fit the bill. African-American male and female, and your wife is carrying a blue purse.”
While Costco has not offered a public apology to the Wallaces, the company released a statement saying that “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.”
But Anne Arundel County police refuted the store’s version.
“The statement Costco made is not only misleading, it is simply wrong,” the department said. “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. It was in no way relayed that a stop should not have been made.”
According to Diversity Inc., the company has a predominantly male executive leadership team that includes a woman, a Latino and a man of Middle Eastern descent.