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Couple sues Md. Costco for $4M, says cops were called on them for shopping while black

Barbara and Bahri Wallace are suing Costco after they say they were racially profiled and accused of shoplifting. (Photo: WJLA)

HANOVER, Md. (WJLA) — Barbara and Bahri Wallace were Costco people, often going a couple of times a week.

So last May, when they were shopping for a new fridge, there was no question where they'd look. The Arundel Mills Costco store.

"We had a love relationship with them, we've been members since 2007," says Barbara.

So, to their favorite store they went.

What they didn't know at the time was that they were being watched by management. And, as they browsed, someone in the store made a call to police.

"I need police immediately at the Costco wholesale," the caller said. "I have a robbery in progress. They’ve been here before. They just robbed the Glen Burnie Costco an hour ago."

Completely uninvolved and unaware of any of that, the Wallaces went about their day, leaving the store heading out onto Arundel Mills Boulevard. That’s when it happened.

"[Bahri] noticed there were police behind us," Barbara says. "So he said 'The police is pulling us over' and I said 'Are they for us?' He said, 'Yeah they're pulling us over.'"

"And I asked why they stopping us, he said 'The manager at Costco suspected you guys of shoplifting.'"

Back in the store, another officer realized the Wallaces were no thieves. In fact, there was no robbery. There was no crime. The Anne Arundel county police quickly defused the situation, but for the Wallaces that is not the end of the story. They believe police were called because they were shopping while black. They went back to the store to confront the manager.

"I asked him, 'Did you call the police on my wife and I for shoplifting.'" says Bahri. "He said, 'Yes, you guys fit the bill. African American male, female and your wife is carrying a blue purse.'"

Through a statement, Costco says what happened was on the police. As for the call to police, they say they believed the Wallaces matched the description of people who’d been stealing ink cartridges.

Not at all satisfied, the Wallaces and their attorneys are suing Costco for $4 million.

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