Town of Mashpee
No Place for Hate Committee
Contact: Marilyn Farren
(508) 539-1400 Ext. 549
Barnstable County Cape Cod Human Rights Commission
Representative for the Town of Mashpee
Contact: Gail Wilson (508) 539-2442
Mashpee woman claims racial assault
MASHPEE — A former Mashpee High School special-needs teacher has accused the manager of a local supermarket with assault and racial profiling following a confrontation at the store Wednesday morning.
Deborah Saldana of Mashpee went to the Mashpee police station yesterday afternoon and wrote a statement she said she hoped would persuade police to press assault charges against the manager of the Roche Bros. on Commercial Street, James Lundy of Mashpee.
Lundy allegedly confronted Saldana outside the store and accused the 60-year-old of shoplifting, almost shoving her to the ground while trying to get her purse away from her, she said.
Saldana patronizes the store several times a week, family members said, as it is her assigned meeting place for rides to radiation treatments at Cape Cod Hospital. Saldana has bone cancer.
Saldana called Mashpee police during the incident and when they arrived, she was cleared of any wrongdoing while former students working at the store looked on. She left the school last year, she said.
Lundy was working yesterday but declined to comment on the allegations. Gary Pfeil, the general manager of Roche Bros., admitted Lundy made a "mistake" but said Lundy confronted the woman for going out through the "in" door, which he deemed suspicious, and that Lundy denied the assault allegation.
Saldana said she suspects she was stopped because of the color of her skin. She is African-American.
"It was the most humiliating experience I've ever had," she said. "I was so disappointed that this sort of thing can go on."
According to the police report, officers responded to the Roche Bros. store at 8:54 a.m. after receiving a call from Saldana. She requested an officer be present while her bag was searched after she was accused of shoplifting.
Saldana then requested that the officer's search be done in a room away from the customer service area, the report states. Saldana said yesterday it was because she was embarrassed being in view of former students.
Her request was denied by management, then by the officer, Patrolman Kevin Frye, and her bag was found to contain no stolen items, according to the report. She said Lundy did not offer an apology or admit he had been wrong.
Saldana claims Lundy had chased her outside the store and said he had personally seen her steal meat. She thought he was joking at first, she said.
After he tried to get her purse from her outside, almost knocking her down, she said, she asked to go back inside so that there would be witnesses to the confrontation. Lundy agreed.
Once inside, Saldana claims, she followed Lundy to the customer service desk where he allegedly once again tried to get her purse. That's when she called the police.
Saldana claims she told the officer she had been assaulted and that she wanted to file a complaint. The officer's report does not mention her claims, only that she wanted to file a complaint. The officer then told her no crime had been committed, according to Saldana and the report.
The 15-year veteran of the Mashpee school system said there are other errors in the report. Saldana said she had been accused by Lundy of stealing meat, and the report states she told the officer she had picked it up, then put it back before being questioned. Saldana claimed she never told the officer she had touched meat in the store. She said she needed a cart to walk but only purchased a newspaper.
Mashpee police Chief Rodney Collins was adamant yesterday that the department stands behind the report. After an investigation, he said, the department has decided not to file charges.
"Our investigation did not conclude that an assault and battery had taken place," Collins said. "There was no indication that the manager of the Roche Bros. knocked her down. There was no evidence to suggest that, and no witnesses to corroborate her claim. Her story is different (yesterday) than it was (Wednesday). It appears as though she is trying to set herself up for litigation."
Collins said Saldana can file a claim privately in court but if she makes a false claim, she could be countersued.
Pfeil admitted yesterday that Lundy did not see her steal anything before questioning her, but he also denied the assault had taken place. He said Roche Bros. was investigating the incident.
"Jim made a mistake," Pfeil said. "He is sorry. We didn't know she had stolen something. It's a judgment error. ... Jim states he did not touch the woman."
Pfeil said he called Saldana and spoke to members of her family, offering a personal apology from Lundy, but they were not interested.
Saldana, who was waiting to hear from the police today, said she just wanted the community to be aware of what had happened to her and to stop it from happening to another senior citizen. She contended the only reason someone would say they had seen her steal when they hadn't is because of the color of her skin.
"I'm not sure if he was trying to intimidate me or if this is how he treats people of color," she said. "I can't think of any other reason. Maybe he doesn't want me to be a customer. ... It's a nightmare."
Mashpee incident draws rights groups
MASHPEE — The former special-needs teacher who said she was assaulted and falsely accused of shoplifting by a Roche Bros. store manager because she is African-American is working with local anti-discrimination groups after police declined to file assault charges or report the incident as a hate crime.
Deborah Saldana of Mashpee says James Lundy, manager of the Roche Bros. supermarket in South Cape Village shopping center, almost knocked her to the ground while trying to seize her purse after he accused her of stealing meat from the store on July 29.
Saldana, who walks with a cane, was in the store buying a newspaper as she waited for a ride to Cape Cod Hospital for radiation treatments for bone cancer, she said.
Gary Pfeil, the store's general manager, said that Lundy became suspicious of Saldana after seeing her exit the store through the entrance door.
Saldana called Mashpee police when Lundy accused her of shoplifting. The Mashpee officer who responded checked her bag and found nothing had been stolen.
Saldana said she was "humiliated" after being accused and searched in plain sight of former students who were inside the store at the time.
Roche Bros. has since acknowledged Lundy was wrong in accusing Saldana of shoplifting.
Lundy, however, denied he touched the 60-year-old when he confronted her.
The case has caught the attention of concerned citizens across the Cape, and Saldana has been consulting with local anti-discrimination groups to figure out what she should do next, she said this week.
Mashpee Police Chief Rodney Collins said the department does not believe a hate crime was committed.
Saldana's family said she simply wants to file a hate crime report instead of pursuing litigation.
"I'm going to pursue this further so that it doesn't get swept under the rug," Saldana said. "I'm just waiting to find out what the next step is."
After news of the incident broke, anti-discrimination groups such as No Place for Hate Harwich and the Barnstable County Human Rights Commission reached out to Saldana to see how they could help.
Jacqueline Fields, chairwoman of the county's human rights commission, said that they are investigating. John Bangert, who heads the Harwich chapter of No Place For Hate, is counseling Saldana and called on Mashpee police to view the supermarket's security tapes of the incident.
"From my point of view, this woman was racially profiled and accosted," Bangert said. "What actually happened? Did she feel assaulted because of her race? The answer is yes. I take that at face value."
Saldana said that she feels betrayed by the local police for painting her as untruthful and someone just trying to get money from a settlement.
Collins adamantly defended Patrolman Kevin Frye's report of the incident, despite Saldana's claim that there were several inaccuracies.
Saldana also said the report fails to mention her report that she had been assaulted.