A Black woman is suing El Segundo and the parent company of Anthropologie stores, alleging she was arrested and falsely accused of shoplifting last summer because of the color of her skin.
Sheronda M. Bonner’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, filed Friday, alleges civil rights violations, false arrest and imprisonment, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligent supervision. She seeks unspecified damages.
Urban Outfitters issued a statement regarding the lawsuit.
“Anthropologie explicitly prohibits profiling based on race or other invidious discrimination,” the statement read. “In furtherance of fostering a welcoming environment for all our customers, we have instituted diversity, inclusion and implicit bias training for all employees. Many training sessions have been completed over the summer with additional trainings planned.
“Anthropologie is in the process of investigating the allegations contained in the lawsuit, which has not been served yet, and will determine how to respond following the conclusion of its investigation.”
El Segundo also released a statement, saying the city “takes all allegations of racial discrimination very seriously and will be reviewing the details of the lawsuit.”
According to the lawsuit, the case “arises from employees of an Anthropologie store who see an entitlement that says only certain people belong in the store, their unfounded and false report to the El Segundo Police Department that accused plaintiff of grand theft and the El Segundo Police Department’s false arrest of Sheronda M. Bonner, an older Black woman.”
El Segundo police handcuffed the 53-year-old plaintiff and put her in jail, according to her court papers.
“They required her to remove her bra and she spent numerous hours in jail until she posted bond — all because of the color of her skin,” the suit alleges.
Bonner went to Anthropologie on Sepulveda Boulevard with a male companion on Aug. 24, 2019, and looked at a romper and a long dress, but she did not buy anything because the prices were too high, the suit states.
She had a bag that measured eight inches by five inches and held her cellphone, credit cards and car keys, but neither she nor her companion, who is not a plaintiff, had a shopping bag, according to the suit.
After leaving the store, El Segundo police officers detained Bonner and her companion, told them that “cameras were rolling” and that they were the subject of an investigation because the store manager identified them as shoplifters, the suit states.
“Employees of Anthopologie stores have confirmed that they were told to watch people of color closely and would refer to them as `nicks’ to other employees,” the complaint alleges.
Until recently, Anthropologie sold a candlestick that resembled an Aunt Jemima figure, the suit states. In 2003, the stores sold a Monopoly knockoff, “Ghettopoly,” that featured properties with names such as “Cheap Trick Avenue” and “Smitty’s XXX Peep,” according to the suit, which says the NAACP “called for the end to the production and sale of the racist board game.”
Both Bonner and her companion were arrested, although he was cited and released after about four hours, the suit says. She was not let out until she posted $2,000 bail, and was placed on leave from her job at Los Angeles International Airport pending the resolution of the case, which ended with no charges filed, according to the suit.
Based on the allegedly false shoplifting report by the Anthropologie manager and lack of probable cause by El Segundo police to arrest Bonner, the plaintiff suffered economic damages and emotional distress, the suit states.
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