A jury in Oregon awarded a Black man $4.4 million in damages after he claimed in a lawsuit that a White Walmart employee racially profiled him while shopping and tried to have law enforcement act on false charges, according to court documents.
Michael Mangum was awarded $400,000 in non-economic damages and $4 million in punitive damages Friday, according to a news release issued by his attorney Sunday.
Walmart told CNN in a written statement that it does not tolerate discrimination and that the verdict is “excessive” and not supported by evidence.
“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,” according to spokesperson Randy Hargrove. “We are reviewing our options including post-trial motions.”
Mangum, who was 59 at the time, went to a Walmart in Wood Village, Oregon, on March 26, 2020, to look for a light bulb for his refrigerator, his attorney said in the news release.
“Noticing that he was under surveillance by a Walmart loss prevention employee, Mangum objected, believing he was racially profiled,” the release said.
The employee ordered Mangum to leave the store, but Mangum refused, according to the release,
The employee said he “would call the police and tell them that Mangum had threatened to smash him in the face,” the release said.
Multnomah County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the store but did not take action against Mangum due to “shifting explanations as to why the employee called” and because of the employee’s reputation for making false reports to police, the attorney said in the news release.
In a deposition clip given to CNN by Mangum’s attorney, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Shift Cmdr. Sgt. Bryan White said he and deputies on his shift had become “extremely frustrated with a pattern of behavior that they had identified” in the employee calling 911 to report “dangerous active situations such as customers physically assaulting him or loss prevention employees or other Walmart employees while trying to steal and then the deputies determining that that never actually happened.”
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese told CNN in a statement that his agency treats people with dignity and respect.
“Our Deputies have a fair and balanced approach to criminal investigations. I am pleased with how our members responded and assessed the allegations being made in this situation. They recognized inconsistencies in the caller’s report and in past interactions,” he said.
Lawsuit claims discrimination, harassment
Mangum’s lawsuit claims that the employee called law enforcement with the intent to, “unlawfully discriminate against” him.
The lawsuit also alleges that the employee’s call was intended to make Mangum feel harassed, humiliated, or embarrassed as well as cause him to suffer damage to his reputation or standing within the community.
It also claimed that the employee’s actions intended to cause Mangum to be expelled from Walmart where he was lawfully allowed to be.
As a result, Mangum “suffered, continues to suffer, and may permanently suffer from embarrassment, fear, humiliation, anger, and indignity,” the complaint said.
Mangum’s trial attorney, Greg Kafoury, said had law enforcement acted on the employee’s claims, Mangum’s jobs would have been at risk had he been charged with a crime, according to a statement.
He added that Mangum refused to be intimidated by the employee’s “lies and bullying.”
“Because of his courage, we were able to show the jury an unconscionable failure of responsibility by the world’s largest corporation,” Kafoury said in the statement.