The owner of a high-end lemonade stand in San Francisco said he was approached by police officers demanding proof that he wasn’t breaking in, all because he is black.
Viktor Stevenson, owner of Gourmonade, says he was talking on the phone when four police officers approached him when figuring out a bug in the security system Thursday, five days after opening up his business in the Mission District.
"The cops approached me, and I say to them, he is about three feet away, I say, 'oh, did the security system go off? If it did, my apologies, I am on the phone with the company now.' They go to say, 'no,' [accusing me that] you are breaking into the store," he said.
Stevenson said he has been getting his store ready for the last six months and people in the area know him. However, he said police immediately asked to see his hands, which were in his pockets and prove it what his store.
"I said, 'yeah absolutely, here is my key,'" Stevenson said. "Took my key out, opened my door, closed my door. 'Are we ok? Are we good to go?' He said, 'no, can I see your ID?'"
Stevenson recorded the aftermath of situation, which follows similar high-profile incident here in the Bay Area, like BBQ Becky and Permit Patty. He was told that a neighbor called police and though he admits officers were correct to ask for his ID to prove ownership, he insists this was motivated by race.
"I am standing here at my business, on the phone, there is no way that looks suspicious. I am sorry. A three year old would be like he is not doing anything," Stevenson said.
Stevenson says that as a black entrepreneur, these types of incidents just prove that his reality is different from others when out on the streets even in a city as diverse as San Francisco.
On Monday, the San Francisco Police Department released body cam footage of the incident along with a statement which said officers were responding to reports of a burglary call.
According to SFPD, officers were dispatched to the 800 block of Valencia Street around 7:36 a.m. on July 17 "on a call of a possible burglary in progress at a business."
"The caller stated that the person was removing items from a small, open door," SFPD said in a statement.
“Four officers responded to the scene and spoke to the person and determined he was the owner of the business. The entire encounter lasted less than three minutes,” the statement added. “While we have no say over who requests our services, we do have a say over how we respond. The men and women of SFPD are committed to providing safety with respect to all of the people of San Francisco. It is the duty of San Francisco Police to respond to calls for service and we believe our officers responded appropriately and with courtesy to this call.”
The body cam video shows an SFPD officer walking up to Stevenson and asking him, “Do you have something that shows that you own this place? Somebody called us saying that you’re breaking in … We’re just here to figure it out.”
Stevenson, dressed in a big jacket, hands over his ID to the officer, who asks him for the address of the storefront. He responds with the address, and the officer then asks him if he has a California ID, which Stevenson then hands over.
The officer also informs the others, “He has a key.” The officers leave the storefront after this exchange.
Stevenson's wife says this situation has her on alert and that even when her husband goes to work, he is a potential target.
"I’m just sitting at home, just thinking about, would he be home safe? Or will I get a phone call if something happens. You never know. It’s just terrifying for me," Santhia Stevenson said.
Stevenson says he won’t let this rest. He wants to use this as way to get the community to do something to bring about a change in policy. He has already met with members of City Hall and plans to discuss this with Mayor London Breed.