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Milwaukee man says he was detained and racially profiled at a Wauwatosa Home Depot

Posted at 10:22 PM, Jul 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-30 23:22:33-04

WAUWATOSA — A Milwaukee man claims he was racially profiled when he tried to return items at a Home Depot in Wauwatosa last week.

Terrance Westmoreland said he was accused of trying to steal items that he already paid for and had the receipt to prove it. Home Depot is left apologizing.

Westmoreland works in the home improvement industry so he frequently shops at Home Depot.

“I’m in this store, was in this store 7, 8 times a day,” he said.

Westmoreland said he’s no longer a customer after an incident at the store on 124th Street last Wednesday. That’s when he came to return window blinds with a receipt in hand.

“They were kind of tan so basically what I wanted to do was I wanted to match them up and get white blinds,” he said. "So I found the three white blinds that I wanted. I put those in my cart and I proceeded up to customer service.”

While Westmoreland was explaining the exchange to an employee, he said a security guard approached and accused him of trying to steal.

“Before I could even get done, the Caucasian security guard kind of grabbed me by my arm and told me that I needed to come with him,” he said.

Westmoreland said the security guard took him to the back of the store. Westmoreland claims the security guard wouldn’t look at his receipt and refused to pull up surveillance video that showed him walking in with the blinds. Westmoreland said he then called police for himself.

“I was humiliated,” he said.

According to the Wauwatosa Police Department, there have been 28 retail theft cases over the past three months at their Home Depot. So far, 23 arrests have been made, but Westmoreland wasn’t one of them.

“I don’t condone stealing, and I don’t teach my kids to steal,” he said.

Westmoreland believes he was accused of stealing because of the color of his skin.

“Mr. Westmoreland was racially profiled. Once again, racism rears its ugly head in the city of Milwaukee and our suburbs,” King Rick, leader of the Black Panther chapter in Milwaukee, said at a news conference Tuesday.

Home Depot said a store manager and a district manager both apologized about the incident. Home Depot sent TODAY’S TMJ4 the following statement:

"There was a misunderstanding about Mr. Westmorland's return. We take these complaints very seriously and would not tolerate profiling. We have measures and training to help avoid that from happening. We're very sorry for any embarrassment caused to Mr. Westmoreland."

“I appreciate their gesture of apologizing, but you apologize when you step on somebody’s feet. Something else bigger needs to be done for racially profiling me,” said Westmoreland.

Rick Banks of Milwaukee works for a group called BLOC, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities.

“It’s heartbreaking but it’s not surprising at all. I think any black person in the city of Milwaukee has experiences with being racially profiled,” Banks said.

In one of the most segregated cities in the country, Banks implores Milwaukee-area residents to understand that racism exists here and to take a stand against it.

“It happens. I’s unfortunate. We have to end it,” he said. “I think it’s going to take a wide cultural shift in order for that to be the case.”