Who is David Conners? Black corrections officer sues Walmart over racial profiling
Walmart has been sued by a corrections officer in Georgia over racial profiling. David Conners, an officer at the Clayton County Detention Center, has claimed that he was racially profiled as a shoplifting suspect and handcuffed only because he was “big and Black". According to lawsuit that Conners recently filed, he was stopped as he was shopping for items for his new home in September last year in Fayetteville, about 22 miles south of Atlanta.
The Walmart store's chief loss prevention officer allegedly misidentified Conners as someone who was a suspect in a shoplifting case. The suspect reportedly shoplifted at the store on various occasions. Terance Madden, Conners' lawyer, claimed that the officials were already aware of the suspect's name and even had photos of him, along with an active warrant.
Madden said that Conners was on the phone when police approached him and asked him what his name was. Conners subsequently provided his name, produced his driver's license and his work ID, and confirmed that he was a law enforcement officer. The lawsuit claims that the loss prevention officer contacted the Fayetteville Police Department, who soon arrived at the store, "surrounded him, embarrassed him and escorted him, in full view of other shoppers, into the store’s Loss Prevention Office." The officials then handcuffed him with his hands behind his back.
Madden said that Conners was brought to the office and shown a photo of the suspect, who was wearing a mask. Conners continued to deny it was him. "It's not me. You've got my identification. You know who I am. You can call over and ask. I don't even shoplift," Conners told the officers and staff members, Madden said. Conners even pointed out that he had tattoos on his arms, the the suspect did not have.
Madden stated that Conners was only targeted because of his race and that "this can happen to anyone." "One of the officers said, trying to make excuses of why he was misidentified, ‘Well, you’re about the same build.’ That means the only identifying that they did on him was that he was big and he was Black," Madden said.
The lead Fayetteville police investigator in the shoplifting case then arrived. Madden claimed that Conners was put on FaceTime with the investigator, who confirmed that he was not the suspect. He was then uncuffed and released. “He’s thinking: ‘I’m an officer. I identified myself as such. I was stopped for no reason.’ His mind is everywhere,” Madden said. He said that not a single person involved in the incident -- the police officers or the store employees -- apologized. Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove said: “We don’t tolerate discrimination of any kind and take allegations like this seriously. We are not going to comment further on this pending litigation.”
In a statement, Fayetteville police said that Conners seemed to be agitated" when they responded to Walmart's call, following which they "placed him in an investigative detention briefly." "Fayetteville Police responded to a 911 shoplifting call and had nothing to do with accusing Mr. Conner of any wrongdoing. We merely investigated the complaint for validity, which Walmart LP officers lodged," the statement said. "Mr. Conner fit the description of a repeat offender that had been targeting this specific Walmart in the eyes of the 911 caller. To complicate matters, both the suspect and Mr. Conner have similar builds and were both wearing COVID protective masks. We did briefly detain Mr. Conner to investigate the alleged crime. This detention occurred outside of the public’s view in the LP office located in Walmart."
The police department and its officers are not named in the lawsuit as defendants. According to Madden, the incident "highly affected" Conners and he stopped visiting Walmart ever since. The lawsuit also claimed that Conners was physically injured from being handcuffed. He had to seek professional counseling to cope with mental and psychological trauma. Filed in Clayton County, the lawsuit has sought recovery of damages for injuries and punitive damages.