Thu, May

A Black Pastor and Former Cop Walk into a Walmart to Return a TV - So Why Were They Handcuffed and Accused of Stealing It?


THE ROOT-Race is a funny thing. We all know that it’s a social construct, yet we still adhere to principles established by our forefathers, which looks something like this:

If two Black men are ever seen carrying a television, even if they are carrying the TV into a store to return it, chances are they probably stole it and should be treated as thieves.


Well Walmart’s got some explaining to do, and by explaining, I mean two Black men have filed a lawsuit against the company -- which appears to have a return policy that includes televisions -- claiming that they were handcuffed and accused of stealing the television they were trying to return. 

The plaintiffs Dennis Stewart, a former police officer, and Terence Richardson, a pastor, were handcuffed by the police at a Walmart in the Houston suburb of Conroe, Texas, after trying to return a $300 TV last September, the lawsuit said. Stewart bought the TV earlier in the day but said it wasn’t working properly, and so wanted to return it, the lawsuit said. 

The two men said that when they went to return the TV, a white employee at the customer-service counter accused them of stealing it and refused to acknowledge their receipt as proof of purchase.

They said the associate called the police. The lawsuit said the police arrived, handcuffed them, and took them to the loss-prevention office, where Stewart was said to have broken down in tears. 

Police released the men, but Walmart wasn’t finished with them yet. A store manager reportedly asked the men, a pastor and a former police officer (just want to make sure you know this, dear reader), to sign a paper stating that they would be arrested if they ever returned to the store. 

The men claim a Walmart associate shouted at them: “Take this fucking receipt, take that fucking TV, get the fuck out of this store, and never fucking come back.” 

For those who can’t tolerate reading curse words let me translate for you: “Take your proof of purchase and the item that you purchased, legally, and leave the store, despite your efforts to return the item that our policy allows to be returned. Shop at Target!” 


​​The lawsuit claims that the men are now “regularly tormented and awakened from their sleep with nightmares about what they experienced at the Walmart.” 

Before you smirk, I’ve never been accused of stealing anything from Walmart and have regular nightmares about that place. 

“Such treatment hurts so deeply it is impossible to describe,” it said, Business Insider reports. “It is like a cancer that eats at them every moment of the day — causing them to try to avoid people they think might be inclined to act the same way toward them.” 

The pastor and the former cop are accusing Walmart of racial discrimination, false arrest and imprisonment, and breach of contract. 

They claim they were “dehumanized” and made to look like criminals when they are a pastor and a former cop. I can’t mention this enough because you couldn’t have asked for two more upstanding members of the community to return the television. This is like having LeVar Burton and the father from Family Matters handcuffed for stealing. 


Business Insider notes that this isn’t the first time Walmart has faced “a racial-discrimination lawsuit.” 

“In 2018, a Black customer sued the company, alleging that it was intentionally locking up inexpensive beauty products made for Black people. Retailers often put higher-priced products in glass cases to protect them from theft.” 

Walmart told Insider it did “not tolerate discrimination of any kind.” It later said it would stop putting these products behind glass cases.


(Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is a writer for The Root where this story was first published.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


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