Earlier this week, WW reported on four new lawsuits filed on behalf of Portland-area shoppers who say they were racially profiled by national retailers and falsely accused of shoplifting.
Related: In a Raft of New Lawsuits, Black Oregonians Say Leading Retailers Profiled and Persecuted Them
In two of the cases, the shoppers turned on their cellphones in the aftermath of the incidents and recorded store personnel responding to their complaints about being wrongfully accused.
Jason Kafoury, the Portland lawyer who filed the four lawsuits this week on behalf of the Black shoppers, says cellphones have added to lawyers’ ability to substantiate their clients’ allegations in such cases. (The Kafoury & McDougal law firm won a $4.4 million verdict on behalf of Michael Mangum last year, after Mangum was falsely accused of stealing from a Walmart in Wood Village.)
“I think the power of video has awakened people to what Black lives are like in Portland,” Kafoury says. “Video has changed everything.”
In many cases, Kafoury adds, the stores themselves have video of the incidents from security cameras, although they typically do not turn that over until the discovery phase of a trial.
Wood Village Walmart, May 26, 2022: Brothers Larry Wright and Nathaniel Poe visited the store to buy medication for Poe’s infant son. As they left, the men say, a store official accused Wright of shoplifting. He showed the official there was nothing in his pockets or on his person. Poe had a receipt for the items he purchased. After store officials let the men go, they went to Poe’s car but then decided to return to the store to file a complaint. Here’s a brief video of that exchange. (A Walmart spokesperson told WW, “We take allegations like this seriously and don’t tolerate discrimination.”)
Beaverton Safeway, Jan. 26, 2023: Ramone Palmore stopped by his neighborhood Safeway on Southwest Murray Boulevard in Beaverton, where he regularly shopped. After Palmore paid for his items, a store official photographed him as he exited the store and then a security guard stood behind his car so he couldn’t leave the parking lot. After Palmore showed a receipt for the items, Palmore recorded his conversation with the officials who detained him. Here’s audio Palmore recorded from that conversation. (Safeway did not respond to a request for comment.)