Teacher, coach says he was racially profiled while shopping for jeans at Belk

STATESVILLE, N.C. — A man said he was racially profiled while shopping for jeans at a Belk store in Statesville.

Ashley Stovall spoke exclusively to Channel 9′s DaShawn Brown on Thursday.

Stovall is a teacher and football coach and said he had just finished with football practice and had to run to Belk to pick up a new pair of jeans. Within moments, he was approached by a Statesville police officer, who then asked him to empty his pockets.

“I am from this community, and I’ve shopped in that store my whole life, so I was really just taken aback,” Stovall said. “And automatically, I knew what it was.”

With his camera rolling, Stovall removed his items one by one. There was a sheet of paper with football plays, a coupon, a pair of earbuds and his Belk card.

“I knew that I didn’t have to bring anything out of my pocket, but I knew that I needed to prove a point,” he said.

Stovall even walked through the store alongside the officer to ask the associates why they called the police.

The following can be heard in the video Stovall recorded: “‘What about me? Do you wanna see my ID? That I am a teacher, that I’m educated. You want to run my ID? I don’t have any charges’ ... ‘again, I’m sorry, sir. There’s a misunderstanding.’ ‘No man. I’m not sorry. They’ve got the right one today.’”

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Brown spoke with Stovall and his wife about the incident outside their home while their 9-year-old and 4-year-old daughters were inside.

“It’s sad, but I have to teach them how to navigate when you’re buying a pair of jeans? That’s not a conversation every American has to have,” Stovall said. “Not so much the policeman. I don’t want that to be the narrative. I want the narrative to be the practices of Belk and the way they treat their customers. Not the narrative of an interaction between a Black man and a cop. We see enough of that.”

“I hate that it happened to him, but he’s going to be able to initiate the change that needs to happen because he’s respectable. You know, he’s not, he’s not what they made him out to be,” Chandice Stovall said.

The couple said they had just recently shared the experience with their two young daughters.

“I told her why. Your father was accused of stealing just because of the color of his skin, and the look on her face is a look I’m not going to forget for the rest of my life. But, unfortunately, this moment she will not forget for the rest of her life,” he said.

Stovall said the Statesville police chief called him and apologized. Channel 9 reached out to the department but has not heard back.

Statesville Police Department statement:

“Yesterday, an employee with Belk’s department store called the Statesville Police Department stating an individual within the store was concealing merchandise and stated a witnesses observed the citizen conceal merchandise. Officer Bell was dispatched and responded to the store and was guided by store personnel to the citizen. After discovering nothing was being concealed by the citizen, Officer Bell left the store after determining no crime was committed.

“The Statesville Police Department continues to work hard in building strong relationships within our community and with our citizens. We will continue to treat our citizens with respect and hold each other accountable with that charge. Together, we can make Statesville a stronger community.”

Belk provided the following statement to Channel 9:

“This afternoon we were made aware of what occurred last night in our Statesville store. Belk does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. The associate involved in the incident is no longer employed by Belk and all associates in our Statesville location will participate in additional unconscious bias training, which is an extension of our ongoing, mandatory company-wide training. We are committed to ensuring that every customer we serve is treated in a respectful, courteous and accepting manner.”