#ServingYourNeighborhoodWhileBlack: Calif. Safeway Calls Cops on Black Woman Donating to the Homeless, Accuses Her of Shoplifting

Screenshot: KPIX

Imagine you are out and about, doing some good, helping your community and your fellow man when you get the cops called on you, accusing you of being a thief.

Well, that’s exactly what happened to Erika Martin earlier this month as she was trying to help out a homeless man at a Safeway in Mountain View, Calif. Safeway employees took it upon themselves to call the cops on the young mother as she was donating food, accusing her of shoplifting, KPIX reports.


Martin regularly helps out the homeless in her community, giving them care packages. She also regularly lends a hand to one man who frequents the Safeway off Shoreline Boulevard in Mountain View. So on one Sunday evening, Martin swung by the grocery store to see if she could help him.

“That day, I decided to give him dog food for his dog,” Martin told the station.

Except her encounter with the man did not end the regular way. Out of nowhere, she was suddenly surrounded by police.

“The police just blocks me in. I’m like, ‘what’s going on?’” she recalled.

Officers told her that she had apparently fit the description of a shoplifting suspect, noting that Safeway employees had accused her of theft. Employees said that she was taking items out of the grocery store and putting them in her car.


The employees accused her of working with a black man and a group of kids to shoplift and also smuggle items to her car.

The gag? Martin never stepped foot inside of the Safeway. In fact, she had never even left her car.


She acknowledges her son had gone to the deli to see if they were giving out cookie samples, as he’d done several times in the past but returned to sit in the car only to witness the terrifying encounter.

“He was like crying because he thought they were there to arrest him,” Martin said.


Cops clearly had the wrong person, especially given that Martin wasn’t even wearing the shirt that was described to the police. She was just listening to her gospel music in her car and talking to her sisters, who were also at the scene and had just dropped off some items to a homeless person.

She believes she was racially profiled in the incident.

“Racism still exists,” she said. “I blame the Safeway employees and for them to do something like that to me is just hurtful and shameful.”


“I am not going back to that Safeway ever,” she added.

A Safeway store manager did apologize to he and promised that corporate would reach out to her, but so far, she’s still waiting for that call.


Meanwhile, a Safeway spokesperson told the news station that they were investigating why Martin was the one reported to police, adding that workers had called police because a man who had stolen before had returned to the store.

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Breanna Edwards

News Editor at The Root, animation nerd, soca junkie, yogi