MOUNTAIN VIEW (KPIX) – Safeway employees in Mountain View called 911 when an African-American woman was donating food to the homeless because they thought she was shoplifting, according to police.
In her free time Erika Martin says she gives care packages to the homeless.
“It makes me feel good, you know,” said Martin.
One of them is a man who frequents the Safeway off Shoreline Boulevard in Mountain View.
“That day I decided to give him dog food for his dog,” said Martin.
That was a Sunday evening she’ll never forget.
“The police just blocks me in. I’m like, ‘what’s going on?’” said Martin.
Erica said she found herself suddenly defending herself to several officers who told her Safeway employees accused her of theft.
“Then she [the officer] was like ‘well, we were called here because you fit the description of someone taking items out of Safeway and bringing it back to your car’” said Martin.
Erika says Safeway workers thought she was conspiring with an African American man and that a group of kids were also shoplifting and bringing items to her car.
She says her little boy had gone to the deli to see if they were giving away cookie samples, as he’s done many times before, and was now sitting in their car, frightened and emotional.
“He was like crying because he thought they were there to arrest him,” said Martin.
The thing is, Martin never stepped foot inside Safeway. In fact, she says she never got out of her car.
Martin wasn’t wearing the shirt reported to police. She was wearing a religious shirt instead and claims she was listening to gospel music and talking to her sisters who had just dropped off items to a homeless man.
Martin’s sister recorded a video of the incident.
Police say Martin and her family were helpful and calm and realized Safeway workers got it all wrong.
“Racism still exists,” said Martin.
But she said the damage she was already done.
“I blame the Safeway employees and for them to do something like that to me is just hurtful and shameful,” said Martin. “I am not going back to that Safeway ever.”
Erika says to make matters worse, a Safeway store manager apologized and told her corporate would call her – she’s still waiting.
A Safeway spokesperson did respond to my request and said workers called police because a man who’d stolen before had returned, but they’re investigating why Erika was reported to the police.