BLACK VOICES

Police Called On Black Man In San Francisco For 'Breaking Into' His Own Business

Viktor Stevenson says he was testing the security system at his gourmet lemonade store last week when four cops approached him.

A black man in San Francisco said he was questioned by police last week after a neighbor accused him of “breaking into” his own high-end lemonade stand.

Viktor Stevenson had been testing out his security system Thursday at Gourmonade, which he had opened five days earlier when four police officers approached him, he told NBC Bay Area.

“I say, ‘Oh, did the security system go off? If it did, my apologies. I am on the phone with the company now,’” Stevenson told the news outlet. That’s when the police told him a neighbor had reported him for “breaking into” the stand, he said.

The cops asked to see his hands, which were in his pockets, and told him to prove it was his store, Stevenson said. When he showed them his store key, they asked to see his ID as well, according to Stevenson.

“Being black at my business minding my business and someone called the police and said I was breaking in,” Stevenson wrote in a Facebook post Thursday. “People die because of this kinda misuse of police resources and racial profiling everyday.”

This isn’t the first time Stevenson has felt threatened for being a black entrepreneur, he told news outlet AJ+. Someone wrote “monkey juice” on the side of his store a few months ago, when he was still setting up the business, he said.

“This isn’t anything new for me, but it’s new for me as a father and as a husband,” a visibly emotional Stevenson told AJ+. “And I don’t think my family or any other family should have to go through this for no reason.”

The San Francisco Police Department on Monday released a statement and body camera video of the incident, which they say lasted less than three minutes.

“On Tuesday, July 17, 2018 at approximately 7:36 AM, San Francisco Police officers were dispatched to the 800 block of Valencia Street on a call of a possible burglary in progress at a business,” according to the statement. “The caller stated that the person was removing items from a small, open door. Four officers responded to the scene and spoke to the person and determined he was the owner of the business.”

Stevenson questioned the caller’s motive in an email Thursday to HuffPost.

“If a good person was doing a good deed by calling the cops for something they may have seen, why be so hesitant to leave your information?” Steveson wrote in the email. “I have been in that position a few times when I called to report something I had seen and gave my name and number willingly in case they needed to contact me for more information.”

“The fact remains that I’m a black man,” he continued. “I was at my store minding my business and someone called the cops because they saw a black man early in the morning opening a store. Is that being a neighbor or is that racial profiling?”

Stevenson’s run-in with police last week marks yet another incident in recent months in which a black person was unjustly reported to law enforcement for engaging in an innocuous activity.

Last month, police were called on a black firefighter who was participating in a safety inspection in Oakland, California. In May, a white woman, also in Oakland, called the cops on a black family having a barbecue. The list of apparently racially motivated reports goes on and on.

Such incidents have prompted a fierce debate about racism in the U.S. and the potential danger people of color face when unfairly reported to police, since police interactions with black people, in particular, are disproportionately likely to end in excessive force or death.

This article has been updated to include statements from Stevenson and the San Francisco Police Department.

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