CONROE – Dennis Stewart and Terence Richardson went to Walmart to purchase a big-screen television but ended up with big problems.
“We were two black men with a receipt,” said Richardson.
It does not get more black and white than this for Stewart, a former police officer, and Richardson, a pastor.
The two men said they have shopped at the Walmart located at 1407 North Loop in Conroe for years.
On Sept. 10, 2020, the two men were falsely imprisoned and racially discriminated against, according to a 15-page federal lawsuit filed in Houston in August.
“I never thought it would happen to me, never. Especially at a store that I shop at practically twice a week,” said Stewart.
For Richardson, their visit to purchase, and ultimately, return a television was different.
“This one particular time we feel like we were targeted because we were black,” said Richardson.
Stewart attempted to return the television he purchased hours before. But the men said even though they had a receipt, they had to wait a while because the Walmart employees appeared to be skeptical.
Suddenly, Conroe police showed up.
”Officers were coming around the corner and told us to put our hands up,” said Richardson.
According to the lawsuit, they were paraded in front of other customers to a Loss Prevention Office where employees told police they believed Stewart and Richardson were trying to return a stolen TV.
Stewart said while detained with handcuffs, real problems emerged inside the store.
“You all got us in here handcuffed, and you’ve got people in the store fighting, and you’re not going to do anything about that? But you’ve got me in here and I’ve got a receipt and I have done nothing wrong,” said Stewart.
Ultimately, Walmart released Stewart and Richardson.
“To not to have a voice when you know you have done nothing wrong is a humiliating feeling,” Stewart said.
However, Stewart claims their exit came with an expletive-filled warning.
“She told us to get the F out of their store, and don’t F’n come back,” said Stewart. The exchange-listed in the complaint.
A Walmart spokesperson released the following statement to KPRC 2 Investigates:
“We do not tolerate discrimination and take allegations like this seriously. When the claims were brought to our attention in April of this year, we investigated them. We are not getting into further detail given the litigation and will respond as appropriate with the court.”
The cost of the television was $300, according to Stewart, which he said is much different than the cost of his dignity.
“There is no price limit on my dignity. It feels like I was robbed of my dignity,” said Stewart.
This is not the first time Walmart has been accused of wrongfully detaining shoppers.
KPRC 2 previously reported on a case in 2010 where a Harris County jury ruled in favor of a $9 million payout to a TSU graduate who was falsely arrested over money orders that Walmart believed were fake.
KPRC 2 Investigates reached out to the Texas Retailers Association to see if they had a Customers’ Bill of Rights similar to what the Retail Council of New York established in 2013 to report such cases. They admitted the State of Texas does not, but did point to the Consumer Protection Group handled by the state’s Attorney Generals’ office.