Walmart to Pay Oregon Customer $4.4M for Racial Profiling After He Was Allegedly 'Spied' on

Michael Mangum alleged a former Walmart employee falsely told police he threatened to hit him

A grand jury in Multnomah County, Oregon, ruled against Walmart in a lawsuit filed by a man who sued the store over racial profiling and harassment claims stemming from an incident involving an employee in 2020.

In a verdict signed last Friday, Walmart was ordered to pay $4.4 million in damages to Michael Mangum, whom the lawsuit alleges was "spied on" by Walmart employee Joe Williams while he shopped for a light bulb at a store in Wood Village, Oregon, on March 26, 2020.

"When Mr. Mangum protested that he had done nothing wrong, defendant Williams ordered him to leave the store, then called non-emergency police dispatch and summoned police, reporting that he 'had a person refusing to leave,' " according to the lawsuit as uploaded and shared by KGW News.

Williams told the dispatch operator that Mangum, who was 59 at the time, had not acted violently and did not appear impaired, explaining that the customer "just keeps checking me out" and "started flipping out on me" when the two passed each other in the store, according to the lawsuit.

Mangum's lawyers said deputies with the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office responded and "refused to take action against Mangum," based on Williams' "shifting explanations" for calling police and because the employee had apparently developed a reputation among local law enforcement for unnecessarily calling the police, according to the Associated Press and the lawsuit.

"Defendant Walmart, by and through its management officials was aware that Williams had, on previous occasions, provided false information about customers to police officers, and knew that police had complained that he was not to be trusted," the lawsuit said.

The day after the initial incident, Sheriff's Sergeant Bryan White and another deputy met with store management for the Wood Village location, and told them that Williams had developed a "pattern of behavior" in which he would report "dangerous active situations" at the store that were not actually happening, according to the AP. Mangum's lawyers also alleged that Williams falsely told police that their client threatened to "smash him in the face."

Mangum's lawsuit alleged that the superstore was negligent "in retaining Williams in a loss prevention capacity" and "in failing to supervise Williams so as to prevent foreseeable violations of customers' rights by Williams."

Williams was ultimately fired by Walmart in July 2020 for "mishandling $35 of Walmart property," according to the AP.

Walmart to Pay Oregon Customer, Michael Mangum, $4.4M for Racial Profiling After He Was Allegedly 'Spied' on
KGW News/YouTube

Mangum filed the lawsuit against Walmart in December 2021 for negligent retention and action against person who summons police with improper intent, according to the lawsuit and the AP.

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Mangum's lawyers said he works with residents of a Portland housing project and as a counselor for young people at risk of gang involvement, and that "his jobs would have been at great risk had he been charged with a crime," according to a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

"[Mangum] lives the same message of self-respect that he teaches to young people, 'stand up for yourself when you know you're right,' " Mangum's lawyer, Greg Kafoury, said in the statement. "Because of his courage, we were able to show the jury an unconscionable failure of responsibility by the world's largest corporation."

Walmart senior director for national media relations Randy Hargrove said the company considers last Friday's verdict "excessive" in a statement.

"We do not tolerate discrimination. We believe the verdict is excessive and is not supported by the evidence," Hargrove said in the statement. "Mr. Mangum was never stopped by Walmart's Asset Protection. He interfered with our associates as they were surveilling and then stopped confirmed shoplifters, and then refused to leave despite being asked to repeatedly by our staff and Multnomah County deputies. We are reviewing our options including post-trial motions."

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