Imagine you are a teenager applying for a job, and you end up getting arrested for trespassing before your resume is even considered.
That’s what happened in the case of an unnamed Black 16-year-old in Minnesota.
On Friday, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights determined that the Brooklyn Center Police Department and Michaels Stores, Inc. racially discriminated against the teenager who went to the craft store looking for work in 2019. According to CBS affiliate WCCO, it also found that police used an excessive amount of force.
The department is seeking “structural change” through a settlement with both Michaels and the police department and monetary relief for the teen, WCCO reports.
Here’s what happened that day, according to the Minnesota Reformer:
A manager — a white woman also not named — called 911 to report that a Black “kid” with dreadlocks was “going through the store, playing with the balls … knocking stuff off shelves,” and that he wouldn’t leave after repeatedly being asked to do so.
Surveillance video shows the teenager did juggle a few items but put them back, while another store employee testified that he was not acting out of the norm and there was no reason to call the police on him.
The teen left the store as the manager instructed but later came back to say he felt she kicked him out because he is Black. The manager had another employee block him from getting into the store and called 911 again to report that the teen was touching the employees. The surveillance video does not show him touching any employees, the Reformer notes.
More from the Reformer:
Three police arrived shortly after the second 911 call was placed and one of the officers found the teenager shopping in a different store. He approached the teenager and reached to grab his arm, saying “Come here man.”
The teen stepped back, put up his hands and said, “Don’t touch me.”
The officer later testified that raising one’s hands up “is an assaultive posture demonstrating resistance.”
Another officer then entered the store, and together they threw the teenager to the ground, grabbed and pulled him by his dreadlocks, put a knee to his back and handcuffed him, according to the investigative report.
The teenager, while on the ground, cried out “Don’t kill me. I want to grow up.”
One officer replied: “Maybe you should stop fighting the police.”
The teen was taken to the hospital and later charged with disorderly conduct, trespassing and obstructing the legal process. All the charges were dropped, but Michaels banned him from entering stores for a year.
According to the Reformer, the manager had a history of racial discrimination. One employee told investigators that the manager instructed employees to surveil all Black customers but only follow white customers who appeared to be under the influence.
“It’s unimaginable how the scariest day of my life started with applying for a job at Michaels. Police were called because of my skin color and they abused me to the point I thought I was going to die. No human should fear the police when we are taught that they are protectors. There should be some changes so this never happens again,” the teenager said, according to WCCO.
The Human Rights Department’s investigative report also notes the differences between the officers’ narrative of events and what the department investigators heard from witnesses and saw on the officers’ body camera footage.
According to the Reformer, the officers said in their official reports that the teenager fought them. They also said that when he was handcuffed, they assisted him up from the ground. However, the footage showed the teenager was compliant and that the officers actually jerked him up by the handcuffs and searched him without any verbal instructions.
“We take any claim of discrimination very seriously and work every day to make Michaels as inclusive and diverse as possible,” said a Michaels spokesperson, according to WCCO. “In this instance, we disagree with the findings based on the facts of the incident and plan to appeal the decision.”