Black Customer Says White Trader Joe's Captain Wrongfully Detained Him

Trader Joe Store

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CHATSWORTH (CNS) - A 74-year-old Black man who sued Trader Joe's, alleging a white store captain at the Chatsworth location wrongfully blocked him from leaving for several minutes in 2020 with a cart of already purchased groceries, can take his case to trial, a judge ruled today.

Chatsworth Superior Court Judge Melvin Sandvig denied a motion by lawyers for the store chain and the captain, Michael Milosevich, to dismiss plaintiff Rene McCray's remaining causes of action for civil rights violations, false imprisonment and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

``Plaintiff's version of the incident wherein he claims that Michael Milosevich stood in front of plaintiff's shopping cart, held it in place and prevented Plaintiff from moving for five to seven minutes while looking at him menacingly is sufficient to create a triable issue of material fact as to whether Plaintiff was falsely imprisoned by Trader Joe's Co.'s employee while the employee was acting within the course and scope of his employment,''

Sandvig wrote in addressing the false imprisonment claim.

In their court papers, defense attorneys stated that Milosevich maintains that McCray approached, blocked him and yelled profanities at him.

``Either version confirms that Mr. Milosevich never touched plaintiff, Mr. Milosevich never said anything to the plaintiff and that plaintiff was able to leave the store if he chose to,'' the defense lawyers stated in their court papers.

McCray and his wife of about 50 years have regularly shopped for wine, cheeses and other goods at the Chatsworth store, the suit brought in August 2020 states. On Jan. 20, 2020, the couple had already purchased groceries when they saw some willow stalks in the flower department that they wanted to purchase, so Sandra McCray got in line to buy them, according to the suit.

But when the Chatsworth man tried to leave with the groceries he and his wife already had bought, Milosevich blocked his path and put his hands on the plaintiff's shopping cart to hold it in place, according to the suit.

When McCray asked why he was being stopped, the store captain glared at him and said nothing, the suit alleges.

All the other shoppers in the crowded store were watching the scene as it unfolded, the suit states.

``This scene, an elderly African-American gentleman being stopped and harassed by an aggressive white store leader in front of a store full of people, caused great embarrassment, emotional distress and anxiety on Mr. McCray,'' according to the suit.

Later, when Sandra McCray approached her husband after buying the willow stalks, Milosevich stepped out of the plaintiff's path without ever explaining his actions or apologizing, the suit alleges.

``As a result of this incident, McCray felt humiliation, embarrassment (and) shame that persists to this day,'' the suit states.

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