Black Teen Accused of Shoplifting, Pinned to Ground by Beacon Hill Red Apple Employees

by Kelsey Hamlin

(Updated  1/24/18 at 6:22pm)

red apple incident

Teddy Avestruz was walking along Beacon Avenue on Wednesday, January 17, when he saw a black, teenage boy being held down on the pavement in front of the Hilltop Red Apple by five people wearing the store’s uniform. The store’s general manager accused the boy of shoplifting in a later interview. Avestruz, who says that he was angered and upset about the incident, stopped to film it.

Avestruz’s video of the incident shows that five people wearing Red Apple shirts surrounded the boy in front of the grocery store. The employees take the youth by the arms, and attempt to lead him back into the store when he tried to escape. After the employees grab him, the boy continues to try and get away. He slips on the wet pavement and falls on his back. A middle aged, white man wearing a Red Apple shirt rolls the boy face down to the pavement. The man uses his elbow to pin the boy to the ground.

Another video, by Facebook user Abbdi Hamdi, which seems to document the incident a few minutes later, shows the boy pinned to the ground by the middle aged white man with the Red Apple shirt. The man is holding the boy on the pavement directly in front of the supermarket’s automatic doors. The boy’s arm is pinned behind his back at an unnatural angle. The boy is convulsing and appears to be in pain. At the end of Hamdi’s video, the boy’s t-shirt has come off entirely.

At various points of the video, the boy seems to shout: “Let me go! What the hell! You’re hurting me!” When he is not shouting, the boy seems to have trouble breathing.

A crowd of passersby gathered around the commotion. Some can be seen filming in Avestruz’s video. Some approached the altercation. Several bystanders talked with people wearing Red Apple shirts, and some shouted at the man holding down the boy.

Both of the men who filmed the incident were upset.

“This truly was traumatizing for me,” Avestruz said. “I can’t imagine how it was for the victim.”

“They were saying he took some food or something like that,” Habddi wrote in a post that accompanied his Facebook video. “I was walking my two sons and did not want to stay longer, because it might frighten my kids. I found how some people handle certain situations are disgusting and frightening.”

The store’s general manager, Dean Hasegawa, declined to comment on the actions of his employees. Hasegawa saw the incident: he is visible at 1:14 in Hamddi’s video. Hasegawa, wearing glasses, appears in the left hand side of the screen.

“As a far as shoplifting goes, it happens every day,” Hasegawa said. Hasegawa said that, compared to the rest of his career, Wednesday’s incident was unusual. Hasegawa went on to imply that the boy escalated the incident into violence:

“[We were] dealing with a minor who was very dramatic in how things happened. Even after we detained him, he did some things in the back that was kind of amazing to do.”

Hasegawa did not explain what was “amazing” about the interaction in the store between employees and the boy, and did not explain what precipitated the altercation. Hasegawa said he was frustrated by the response to the incident on social media.

“It’s too bad that things like social media bring this kind of attention to a local neighborhood store that tries to do everything correctly,” Hasegawa said. “This is not what I got into this business for. I’m here to do community good and sell groceries.”

According to Hasegawa, Red Apple employees detained the boy until police arrived. Hasegawa did not say whether the boy was arrested or charged with a crime.

After the initial publication of this article, BombCo media obtained the SPD report of the incident, which can be read here.

As BombCo media first reported, according to the report, two youth were taken by Red Apple staff to the store after the youth were seen on video taking deli chicken without paying. The youth were observed eating all of the chicken. Red Apple staff were going to issue no-trespassing notices to both youth and call their parents. At one point the youth in the video claimed he was having a seizure. A bystander called police about the physical altercation in the parking lot.

It’s unclear if the altercation itself is on store video. According to the report, the youths admitted taking the chicken without paying. The youth seen in the video and pictures told the responding officer he was assaulted, including being choked until he could not breathe and that the physical altercation was initiated by the store employees. The responding officer was wearing a body camera at the time of the incident. According to the report the youth later admitted to taking the chicken without paying, and did not have a seizure.

The youths were trespassed from Red Apple, duration unknown. Neither of the youths involved were arrested or cited by Seattle Police.

Kelsey Hamlin is a freelance reporter with various Seattle publications. She graduated with interdisciplinary Honors, a B.A. in journalism and a minor in Law, Societies & Justice from the University of Washington. Hamlin served as President and VP for the UW’s Society of Professional Journalists over the past two years. Find her on Twitter @ItsKelseyHamlin or see more of her articles on her website.

24 thoughts on “Black Teen Accused of Shoplifting, Pinned to Ground by Beacon Hill Red Apple Employees”

    1. Well you don’t know if he stole. It could be that the manager is racist and assume that he steals cause he was black. You can’t say he’s a thief if it doesn’t show or tell if he stole anything. So you can’t assume it man.

    2. You are accusing him and Don’t know the details- they actually let two other kids go and kept him( probably because he was the black one)… your comment shows what type of person you are towards blacks!!! Shame on you!!!!!!

  1. I’ve seen this exact same thing happen at the Safeway on 15th: a group of adults beating up a black kid with a look of terror on his eyes.

  2. Thank you Kelsey for reporting on this. I had a phone call with Dean earlier this afternoon about this, one of the things I made note of and reiterated was that while he at first continued to call this CHILD a gentlemen, which while on the surface respectful, it enforces an idea that young black children should be treated not as children but adults.
    I was asked by Dean what i would have done if I had a person swing at me and I responded, as an adult I de-escalate. I repeatedly asked whether it is store policy to hold a child face down on wet concrete with an arm positioned on his neck.

    Shoplifting is a crime, no one is debating that, but the escalation by the employees is unconscionable, not too mention possibly in violation of RCW. 4.24.220.
    I am happy to speak further with SSE staff regarding our conversation

  3. This happened to my own son a few years ago. However, he didn’t steal anything. He was reported as ‘acting strangely’. When he attempted to leave, they held him down. Acting strangely? No. He is autistic and doesn’t respond to strangers or make eye contact.

  4. When I was growing up I worked in a 5 and 10 cent store after school in a small eastern Washington town, yes I am old. Every now and again some child wold be caught shoplifting. The store had some fitting rooms. The manager would put the kid in the room and call their parents. He suggested they be kept there until closing time and then be released to their parents. If the parents agreed which 95% did, the parents would come get the kid after he sat by himself in the small fitting room for a couple of hours. He probably did more for crime prevention than the police did. Of course today it would probably be illegal.

  5. Since the RCW is being thrown around:

    “RCW 9A.16.080

    Action for being detained on mercantile establishment premises for investigation—”Reasonable grounds” as defense.

    In any criminal action brought by reason of any person having been detained on or in the immediate vicinity of the premises of a mercantile establishment for the purpose of investigation or questioning as to the ownership of any merchandise, it shall be a defense of such action that the person was detained in a reasonable manner and for not more than a reasonable time to permit such investigation or questioning by a peace officer, by the owner of the mercantile establishment, or by the owner’s authorized employee or agent, and that such peace officer, owner, employee, or agent had reasonable grounds to believe that the person so detained was committing or attempting to commit theft or shoplifting on such premises of such merchandise. As used in this section, “reasonable grounds” shall include, but not be limited to, knowledge that a person has concealed possession of unpurchased merchandise of a mercantile establishment, and a “reasonable time” shall mean the time necessary to permit the person detained to make a statement or to refuse to make a statement, and the time necessary to examine employees and records of the mercantile establishment relative to the ownership of the merchandise.”

    Since we don’t know what occurred prior to the video, we can’t measure the actions of the store’s employees against the statute. Please note that the statute makes no distinction between a child or adult suspect. IF, and we don’t know this, the suspect was told to stop and tried to flee, force can be used to detain, under the law. If the suspect then uses more force to try and get away, then the people doing the detaining can escalate to prevent that. We know none of that. We don’t know what employees saw to begin with, so we can’t reach any judgements if their were factual grounds to allow a person to reasonably conclude “possible shoplift” even if that conclusion later turned to be mistaken. It need not be correct, or even more probable than other conclusions that could ALSO reasonably be drawn from what was observed, if anything, it just needs to be reasonable.

    We have someone offering to provide hearsay if called by the South Seattle Emerald. That doesn’t help. Let’s at least wait for the police reports. They are not conclusive, but a start.

    1. Headlines are ultimately written by editors. But, for some added thought, fair point except in saying “it doesn’t matter he’s black,” one almost automatically thinks it in fact does as it correlated with why this boy was taken down for shoplifting as compared to apparently two others he was with and/or other shoplifters in the past. The point of including race here, I think, is to ultimately beg the question: would this have played out the way it did if he wasn’t black?

      1. Impressed you answered my question. That alone speaks volumes about your integrity. I think in the long run, you will come to doubt the use of race in a headline unless the story explicitly proves race to be a significant, verifiable motivation in the event. You ask how it would have played out if he was black, but you don’t speculate about the race of the store employees. What if the suspect proved to be mentally ill, or a Sikh, or sported a face tattoo declaring, “I love shoplifting.” What if he was white and blind? Would you say, “Blind white youth accused of shoplifting”? It’s a tough issue because we assume race is part of the equation. For decades news stories would fail to mention race if the subject was white, but label everyone else. A white man was just “a man.” I think by describing race in this headline you are loading the story unnecessarily. You have a terrific news site going; don’t let people find bias in your reporting.

    2. Please go somewhere with this nonsense. How is it bias to accurately state the the teen’s race? So publications’ should’ve kept the race of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and countless others out of the headlines? And Sandra Bland’s race out of the headlines. Look through the comments on here and Facebook. Even anecdotally it isn’t white people who are having these issues. When someone says what’s race got to do with it, it’s usually because they don’t want to talk about race. Unconscious bias exist that’s just a fact. I think you might want to google the disproportionate treatment of black children by our Seattle school district. Had they not mentioned his race in the headline it would’ve been sanitizing what actually happened.

      1. Sorry, talking journalistic integrity here. If the story is about the relatively high number of black kids arrested for shoplifting, while whites are let off, then race could be relevant to the headline. But leading with the kid’s race, but not that of anyone else in the piece, is putting the cart before the horse. Would you want an article to say, “Black teen wins academic honors”, or “Area teen wins academic honors”? I prefer reading a story about a shoplifting arrest/assault and discovering further down that my assumptions about race were correct, or not — more of a slow burn. Shouting “race” in the headline cheapens the article.

  6. Hey, SSE. I’m a big fan. I wondered if, in light of this coverage, you would be willing to put forward a policy statement about handling the privacy of minors and/or suspected criminals. I’m surprised you posted images and video that didn’t blur the face of this young person without any qualifying text about the privacy or permissions issues associated with re-publishing this information. As an organization, not some stranger on facebook, I think you have a responsibility to explicitly address this (and maybe protect yourselves in the future from legal action). Thank you so much for the work you do in the South End. I mean it; you’re great.

    1. Leah,

      Thank you so much for reading and supporting us, and for your concern here no less. As someone who also dabbles quite a bit in privacy law, this video is publicly available on social media, as such there is no point in altering the video since it is available elsewhere, and widespread at this point. News publications aren’t obligated to redact items that are otherwise widely disseminated without redaction. We additionally gathered the videos with the original posters’ consent! And our editor states with the family’s.

      Thank you again for your caring concern!