KIRKLAND, Washington — A Black man performing his duties as a court-appointed advocate was supervising a mother’s visitation at a yogurt shop when he was kicked out by police because he looked “suspicious.” Police department officials say they now regret the actions of their officers.
Ramon Cruz, the owner of the Menchies yogurt shop in Kirkland, a suburb east of Seattle, called police after his employees told him that they were “kind of scared because [the Black man] looks suspicious. He just keeps looking at the phone and looking at them,” Cruz said during the 911 call, the Seattle Times reports.
When officers arrived, they took down the “full information” from man, identified as Byron Ragland, who happens to be a nine-year Air Force veteran. Ragland, 31, reportedly offered no resistance to responding officers. He was there as a court-appointed special advocate, supervising a court-sanctioned outing between a mother and her son. After telling officers the order to leave was “not necessary,” he quietly vacated the premises.
But the subsequent outrage from the community and the local NAACP was deafening. The Kirkland Police Department has since come back with an apology for hastily ushering Ragland out of the shop. The department also launched an internal investigation into how the officers handled the situation because Ragland had reportedly done nothing wrong.
The Seattle Times learned of the incident through a tip and wrote about the episode, which ignited the backlash. Embarrassed police department and city of Kirkland officials quickly responded to the community’s outcry.
“Our initial assessment showed that the interaction that occurred did not meet the expectations of our community or the high standards we set for ourselves,” Kirkland Police Chief Cherie Harris and City Manager Kurt Triplett said in a joint statement, according to the newspaper.
“What didn’t meet our standards is that at the end of the interaction Mr. Ragland leaves feeling unwelcome in Kirkland, and we know overall the picture of that interaction does not meet the standards of what our community expects of us,” Kirkland police spokeswoman Kellie Stickney added. “We’re apologizing for how our police department handled the events.”
The department will “evaluate our policies and practices and change what needs to be fixed,” the statement read.
Cruz, the Menchie’s yogurt shop owner, has also apologized to Ragland. He admits he instructed his employees to call the police when a suspicious-looking individual enters his store. Cruz now says he will instruct employees to call him in the future, and he will come in and assess the situation before enlisting the aid of law enforcement.
Ragland, meanwhile, remains unimpressed with the store owner’s mea culpa. In fact, he expressed disgust at how the whole thing went down.
“You listen to that 911 call. He says right in there that I’m not doing anything,” Ragland told the Seattle Times. He later told KIRO 7 news station that he will not accept an apology without policy changes at the store.
“That’s all it takes in America — for you to be Black and to be somewhere you’re not supposed to be. And where you’re supposed to be is not up to you. It’s up to somebody else’s opinion,” Ragland told the Times.