Tracy Baker had no idea what was in store for her when she stopped into the Prescott Valley Walmart on Nov. 16 to cash a Moneygram card.
The 50-year-old FedEx employee, who is black, was in uniform after getting off work.
She happened to be in the store at the same time police said two other African-American women, Landa Anderson and Jemise Gilcrest, were planning to defraud the store in what would have been the third incident they had undertaken involving conning clerks into loading money onto Walmart money network cards.
Police arrested Anderson and Gilcrest. They also took Baker into custody.
“I don’t even know them girls,” Baker said. “I never met them in my life. Only thing I ended up asking those girls was, ‘Where can I cash a Moneygram?’” because the Walmart wouldn’t cash one issued by a CVS pharmacy.
“The employee told the police I was with them because they were black and I’m black,” Baker said, and she was searched, handcuffed and placed in a police car for two hours.
Then she was taken to the police station, where she was placed in a holding cell.
She was told that a Walmart employee pointed her out as a suspect.
“I am very, very angry,” Baker said. “It’s racial profiling.”
A Prescott Valley police report said a store loss-prevention agent recognized Anderson and Gilcrest from surveillance video taken at a Prescott Walmart, where the pair was accused of defrauding a clerk, and showed the video to an officer.
“While standing near customer service, another African-American female with shoulder-length black hair, wearing dark pants, and a black-and-purple FedEx sweater, walked up to them, spoke to them a moment, then they all started to walk out” of the store, the report states, and Baker was stopped by an officer just outside the door.
“I asked (the loss-prevention agent) to look through the video and see if there was a female matching the description of the female in the FedEx sweater,” the officer wrote, but there wasn’t.
A second officer’s report said, “(The loss-prevention agent) told me another associate (store employee) relayed to him that they observed Tracy walk over to one of the other females and tell her, ‘They’re onto you.’”
The loss-prevention agent was unable to tell police which associate made the claim that day, but the next day, police contacted the store’s assistant manager, who said she hadn’t heard Baker make the statement herself, but that an unidentified male customer told her Baker said it.
A third Prescott Valley officer’s report said that a PV officer told a Prescott police detective that Baker likely had no involvement in the fraud case, but they were asked to hold her anyway.
Baker was detained in the holding cell until she was questioned, after which, the Prescott detective told the PVPD officers to release her. They drove her back to the store, where her car was still in the lot.
“They said, ‘We apologize, you have no involvement in this,’” Baker said. “I said, ‘I’ve been trying to tell you that from the beginning.’”
“The officers on scene were not racially profiling Baker, they would have taken the same action on any individual with the information provided to them at the time of the incident,” said PVPD Lt. John Woods. “The officers on scene were provided information that led to reasonable suspicion to contact Tracy Baker because she approached suspects known to Walmart security for a crime committed in Prescott.”
Woods said the fact that they were told she used the phrase, “They’re onto you” and then left the store at the same time as the suspects gave the officers the reasonable suspicion.
“At the request of Prescott PD, she was held until Prescott PD Detective Belling could interview her at the Prescott Valley Police Department … and released after Detective Belling verified that Baker was not criminally involved.”
A corporate spokesman for Walmart referred all questions to police and would not comment on the incident.
Baker, who said she’s contacted an attorney, added that she’s moving from her current home in Dewey to California this weekend.
“I’m getting up out of here. It’s crazy.”