This story started as a tip through the 15 Finds Out hotline. If you have something you would like 15 to find out, call (260) 481-1515 ext. 1610.
NEW HAVEN, Ind. (WANE) - A cashier’s call to police left New Haven officers pointing their guns at three innocent men. The employee said they were acting suspicious, but the men are calling it racial profiling.
On August 31, Chris Granger and his two cousins went into the 24/30 Surplus Discount Grocery Store in New Haven. The three are African-American men ranging in age from 21 to 37.
Granger, 37, said they went there to buy supplies.
“We’re surprised about the prices so we’re kind of interested. We’re looking around,” Granger said. “We’re in there for like 20 to 25 minutes.”
The three left to shop at the nearby Big Lots, but soon returned because they said they forgot to get trash bags.
In the meantime, 24/30 Surplus cashier Mary Greenwood noticed what she would call suspicious activity. Greenwood said she believed the men were casing the store and thought one of them was carrying a pistol. She told 15 Finds Out the men were talking in gang slurs, looking in a back room, and asking when the store would close. So Greenwood called New Haven police.
The three men left the store for the second time and drove off. Granger’s cousin Amir Slate said he left his phone on the cashier counter, so they turned around to go get it.
When they pulled back into the parking lot, several police cars surrounded their vehicle. Police and Granger confirmed that officers had their guns drawn.
“I mean I’m scared for my life. I don’t know what’s going on,” Granger said. “[They told us] ‘Keep your hands up. Keep your effing hands up. Or we’ll shoot.”
Granger said they followed orders, but the tense moments continued as officers approached.
“They get out, come up to us, guns drawn in our face and say, ‘Where’s the effing guns? Where’s the guns?’” Granger said. “We’re like, ‘What are you talking about, where’s the guns?’”
New Haven officers eventually found no guns and bags of supplis purchased from the store. The three men explained to officers that they were coming back for a cell phone. The officers found it in the store and returned it to Slate.
“At this time [officers] are like, ‘Ok now we realize what’s going on. We’re sorry. We think you guys were profiled,’" Granger explained.
But Darren Peterson, New Haven patrol officer, disagrees with the last part. He thinks it was a normal response to what the clerk thought was suspicious activity.
“Going to a store three times is kind of suspicious,” Peterson said. “A lot of it comes down to the world we live in now. Times are tough. People are laid off. And you’re more cognizant of things that are suspicious. We all are more suspicious. The workplaces are more suspicious. And unfortunately it’s not racially profiled.”
24/30 Surplus’ co-owner Dave Louden thinks his employee did the right thing.
“[Police] told us to call them every time that we think something’s up,” Louden said. “When you come back three times, do we call the police or just say everybody’s honest?"
As for Granger and Slate, they are still in shock. Slate said no one has ever falsely accused him of having a gun or being suspicious.
Granger said it’s something he wants to expose to the community.
“We need to talk about it. We need to get to the root of this problem of what’s going on. I was an honest customer. I got racially profiled. And just like that, my life could have been taken for nothing,” he said. “I’m scared to go anywhere now because I think the police might be called on me.”
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