Customer sues Starbucks over erroneous identification

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Starbucks Inc. has responded to allegations by a Black customer who said he became ill after being falsely identified by a manager as someone who had been previously banned from the store with a temporary restraining order, saying what happened was wrong and a “regrettable case of mistaken identity.”

Plaintiff Silas Braxton brought the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court Aug. 11, alleging racial discrimination, civil rights violations, negligence, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and slander.

He is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

What happened to Mr. Braxton was wrong,” a Starbucks statement said. “We are committed to creating an environment where everyone is welcome, respected and valued, but failed to uphold our mission and values in this instance. While not excusable, what took place in our store was a regrettable case of mistaken identity, and we refute the allegations that what took place was an instance of discrimination. We have shared our sincerest apologies with Mr. Braxton and provided follow up coaching to our partners at the store.”

Culver City police received a 911 call at about 12:20 p.m. on Feb. 15, 2020, saying that a man named Ron, who had caused an incident three days earlier at the store on Slauson Avenue, was refusing to leave despite a restraining order banning him from returning, according to Braxton’s suit.

One of the five officers went into the store, then came outside and told Braxton as he sat in the patio, “Sir, you have a restraining order against you that you are in violation of and I am here to arrest you,” the suit states.

Asked by Braxton for the name of the person the officers were looking for, the policeman answered, “Ron,” the suit states.

After Braxton said his name was not Ron, the officer said the manager had identified him as the man against whom they had obtained a restraining order.

When Braxton insisted the identity of him was mistaken, the officer went back inside the store, then returned once more and said the manager again identified him as Ron, even though other patrons sitting around the plaintiff said his name was not Ron, according to the suit.

Braxton’s heart began racing and he was overcome with fear,” especially after seeing the officers put their hands close to their weapons, the suit states.

Eventually another store manager showed up and said Braxton was not Ron, Braxton’s court papers state. Prior to the second store manager’s arrival, none of the Starbucks employees on duty came outside to identify the plaintiff face-to-face before calling the police, the suit states.

Braxton “left the premises in a frenzy” and his daughter later had him rushed to a hospital for treatment and observation of a heart condition, according to the suit.