Oregon racial profiling lawsuit ends in $4.4 million penalty for Walmart

Author: KGW Staff

WOOD VILLAGE, Ore. — A Multnomah County grand jury has ordered Walmart to pay $4.4 million in damages to Michael Mangum, a Black man who sued the store after he said he was racially profiled and harassed by an employee at the Walmart in Wood Village. According to the lawsuit, the employee “spied” on Mangum while he was shopping, ordered him to leave and then called police when he refused.

Walmart allowed the employee to keep his job for several months after the incident, the lawsuit states, even after law enforcement determined Mangum had done nothing wrong and warned managers that the employee had a history of making false reports to police about customers.

According to the lawsuit and a news release from his attorneys, Mangum, who was 59 at the time, visited the Walmart located at 23500 Northeast Sandy Boulevard in Wood Village on March 26, 2020, to buy a light bulb for his refrigerator. After Mangum arrived, he noticed a store employee watching him as he shopped. The court filing says the employee, Joe Williams, “spied on Mr. Mangum.”

Williams told Mangum to leave the store, but Mangum refused, saying he’d done nothing wrong. According to a news release, Williams then told Mangum he was going to call the police and tell them Mangum had threatened to “smash him in the face.”

Williams called the non-emergency police dispatch line and told the operator he “had a person refusing to leave,” the lawsuit states. Williams told the operator that Mangum wasn’t acting violently and didn’t appear to be drunk or high, but that “he just keeps checking me out.” He told the dispatch operator that he asked Mangum to leave because “he started flipping out on me.”

Deputies from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) responded and found Mangum had done nothing wrong and told him he could keep shopping.

After the incident, a store manager spoke to Mangum outside the store and told him the store had experienced “large losses from theft.” Mangum told the manager that had nothing to do with him, the lawsuit states.

The following day, March 27, 2020, MCSO Sergeant Bryan White and an unnamed deputy returned to the store to meet with Kelly Cooper, the director of the Wood Village Walmart, and assistant manager Dugan Harris. They explained that deputies had noticed a “pattern of behavior” in which Williams would call police to report “dangerous active situations, such as customers physically assaulting him or other employees.” Deputies would respond and upon investigation, find that Williams was reporting things that were not happening.

According to Mangum’s lawyers, the store and Walmart corporate officials ignored these warnings about Williams’ pattern of false reporting and kept him on the job for several more months after the racial profiling incident. He was eventually fired on July 9, 2020, for “mishandling $35 of Walmart property.”

Mangum filed a lawsuit against Walmart for negligent retention and action against a person who summons police with improper intent (ORS 30.845).

According to his lawyers, Mangum is a respected man in the community who works serving residents of a large housing project in Portland and counseling young people at risk of gang involvement. He’s known by those with whom he works and serves as “Mr. Michael.”

“His jobs would have been at great risk had he been charged with a crime, but he refused to be intimidated by Williams’ lying and bullying,” Mangum’s trial lawyer, Greg Kafoury, said in a news release. “He lives the same message of self-respect that he teaches to young people, ‘stand up for yourself when you know you’re right.’ Because of his courage, we were able to show the jury an unconscionable failure of responsibility by the world’s largest corporation.”

Read the lawsuit

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