Here’s an unfortunate truth: If you’re black and the police are summoned, remain as calm as possible.
And whatever you do, don’t swing at a cop. That never ends well. That’s a simple lesson in survival that, clearly, no one taught a female customer at a 7-Eleven in the Northeast who was captured on a YouTube video earlier this month.
After being detained by store employees who suspected her and her companion of shoplifting during a previous visit, the woman went on a rampage, trashing the store and fighting employees.
It all began early Oct. 1 after some employees at a 7-Eleven in the 5000 block of Frankford Avenue locked the women inside.
Lt. Dennis Rosenbaum, of Northeast Detectives, said an employee claimed to have caught the women shoplifting a night earlier. When the alleged culprits reportedly returned the following day, an employee locked them inside and called authorities.
The women were essentially held captive. It’s unclear if they even knew why. Needless to say, they weren’t having it.
As a loud confrontation ensues on the video, you can hear someone yelling repeatedly, “You can’t leave!” as one of the women — Lashae Whitaker, 20, of Nicetown — races around the store knocking merchandise off shelves. The second woman, Tiera Brown, 28, of Frankford, stations herself at the front of the store and appears to be using her cellphone and telling her captors, “I’ve got kids. I’ve got to go” and “I’ve never done nothing to y’all.”
At one point, Whitaker tries to kick her way through the door and can be seen fighting with a male employee.
It’s a hot mess, but stay with me because it gets worse.
A police officer arrives and confronts the women inside the store, at which point Whitaker tries to hit the cop. He puts Whitaker in a headlock and tackles her, crashing into an aisle display on the way down. While Whitaker is beneath the officer, the video appears to show him punching her several times. She is eventually handcuffed and walked out of the store. Brown also is taken into custody.
No injuries were reported. Rosenbaum said the officer used force to detain Whitaker because she tried to resist arrest.
“You’re going to do what it takes to get [the situation] under control,” he said.
Brown has been released, but faces a host of charges including simple assault, reckless endangerment, and making terroristic threats. Whitaker, meanwhile, remained in custody Thursday at Riverside Correctional Facility, according to court records. She faces multiple charges including attempted arson, causing a catastrophe, and inciting a riot. Bail has been set at $20,000. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for next month.
“I think it’s way over-charged and way blown out of proportion,” said Max Kramer, Whitaker’s lawyer.
He said police used unnecessary force to subdue Whitaker, a retail employee who stands only about 5 feet 2 inches and weighs about 100 pounds.
“He manhandles her. You can’t see everything that’s going on,” Kramer said. “The cops and my client get into this scuffle. The cop floors her and he, like, slams her to the ground. … They are both rolling around the ground and she’s eventually subdued by the cop.”
Brown’s attorney, David Walker, agreed with Kramer that the store employees were wrong. They pointed out that after all that, neither woman faces theft charges.
“There has to be some justification for [store employees] to attempt to hold her, and clearly there wasn’t any,” Walker told me.
An employee who answered the phone at the 7-Eleven told me: “Our position is no comment. It’s going to stay no comment.”
A legal expert I spoke with said there’s such a thing as shopkeeper’s privilege, which allows retailers to detain suspected shoplifters on store property for a reasonable length of time.
“They can detain them in a reasonable fashion,” said Regina Austin, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “They are not liable for false imprisonment and they are privileged to do that.”
But if the women had stolen something a day earlier, why weren’t they held then? And who’s to say this wasn’t a case of mistaken identity?
As I pointed out earlier, neither woman was charged with theft, just bad behavior.