On November 7, 31-year-old Byron Ragland was sitting in Menchie’s, a frozen yogurt shop in Kirkland, Washington, when the police arrived and told him to leave. Ragland, who is a special advocate and visitation supervisor, was in the establishment so he could supervise a family visit. Out of curiosity, what’s his background? Nine years in U.S. Air Force.
This veteran’s alleged crime? Basically, doing his job.
Within about half an hour of his clients ordering frozen yogurt, Ragland says the police interrupted him observing the family.
“They asked me to leave,” Ragland said. “They asked for my ID. They told me the manager had been watching me and wanted me to move along.”
Ramon Cruz, the store owner, says he was informed by his employees that Ragland hadn’t purchased anything. They felt he looked “suspicious.” (For context, Cruz was not in the store himself.)
“They’re kind of scared because he looks suspicious,” Cruz told the dispatcher in the 911 call, which is now available to listen to online. “All he does is look at his phone, look at them, look at his phone, look at them.”
Which, given that Ragland’s employment involves him supervising these visits, sounds like he was just doing his literal job.
According to the police report, Ragland’s clients confirmed he was just doing his job.
“Ragland had two associates (female adult and male juvenile) with him, who stated they were there with him for visitation.”
The report also backs up the original claim that the employees were essentially just uncomfortable:
“Store employees … told me that he had been in the store for a while and did not buy anything, and he was not making them feel comfortable.”
Cherie Harris, Kirkland’s Police Chief, says the department is currently investigating whether the responding police acted in accordance with department protocol.
The statement in the press release includes the following:
”Kirkland prides itself on being a safe, welcoming and inclusive community, and we take allegations of racial profiling very seriously. It’s important not to draw conclusions before all the facts have been examined. The Kirkland Police department has already initiated an investigation of the incident to determine if proper protocol was followed.”
Of course, this is just one of the many, many instances in recent memory of strangers calling the police on black people for doing just about anything. Sometimes it happens when you’re in your college class. Sometimes it happens when you’re waiting for AAA. Sometimes it happens when you’re a child trying to move past someone in a store, or when you’re hoping to sell water outside of your home.
“That’s all it takes in America—for you to be black, and to be somewhere you’re not supposed to be,” said Ragland. “And where you’re supposed to be is not up to you. It’s up to somebody else’s opinion.”
Making the situation even more bizarre, Cruz added that he doesn’t think the situation has anything to do with racial profiling. “This is not racial profiling, though,” he said to the dispatcher. “I mean I’m Asian, I experience the same thing. It was a misunderstanding, which sometimes do happen.”
“My reaction,” Ragland said, “is that this was just another Wednesday.” Sadly, he hit it right on the nose.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.