Stopped For Stealing

WSVN — She was shopping in a store, as she started to leave a store security officer told her to come back inside where she was then accused of shoplifting. At first she was embarrassed, now she is angry and calling Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser to find out what can be done for being falsely accused.

There are at least two things that make Sharina Howard happy. One…

Sharina Howard: “I like to cook. I love to cook.”

Sharina says cooking relaxes her and that other thing…

Sharina Howard: “Also, shopping relaxes me.”

But a recent trip to her favorite store was the exact opposite of relaxing.

Sharina Howard: “I was so embarrassed, I was so ashamed.”

Sharina wanted a white shirt.

Sharina Howard: “So I picked up two shirts, took them to the dressing room, tried on the shirt.”

Sharina left one shirt in the dressing room, took the other to the register and then changed her mind.

Sharina Howard: So I was like, ‘I will wait. I will get it later’, and the girl was like, ‘OK, no problem.’

Then she started walking out the door. Two store employees stopped her.

Sharina Howard: “And she said, ‘Come walk with me to the back.’ I said, ‘OK, no problem.’ Didn’t think nothing of it.”

Sharina was taken to a room where she found out she was being accused of stealing.

Sharina Howard: “She was like, ‘Tell me the truth. Tell me the truth about what..’ I said, ‘Ma’am what are you talking about?’ She said, ‘Tell me the truth, where is the items. You had two items in your hands.'”

Sharina told them she left one shirt at the register and the other in the dressing room, the store employees didn’t believe her.

Sharina Howard: “She said, ‘Open up your purse.’ I said, ‘OK, no problem.’ I open up the purse.”

The employee didn’t stop. She told Sharina to pull up her blouse like this.

Sharina Howard: “So I lift up the shirt. She was like, ‘OK, just give me a second.’ She walked back out.”

Then the store security officer returned.

Sharina Howard: “And I guess when she went back to check it again, she saw the shirt and came back and apologized to me. They found the shirt.”

Sharina was told she could leave the store but her embarrassment had turned to anger. She called Miramar police who filed this report and told her there was nothing police could do.

Sharina Howard: “I never stole in my life. I am not a criminal. She made me feel like I was a criminal.”

Well Howard, can a store employee do what was done to Sharina?

Howard Finkelstein: “It depends. If they have probable cause, meaning they saw you pocket the merchandise, they can stop you. If they don’t have that visual proof or see something else suspicious and they detain you, you can sue them for unlawful detention.”

We contacted Kohl’s corporate headquarters. I was told I will send this to our office of the president. They will contact the customer directly.

And they did. Sharina said they apologized and offered her $50 in Kohl’s cash to spend at their store. Sharina said no thanks.

She is still upset and wonders what a person should do if a store employee stops them and asks to search them.

Howard Finkelstein: “Assuming you are not guilty, I would be as polite as possible. Try to dispel their concerns like Sharina did and if you don’t want to cooperate like Sharina did, tell them to call the police. Let them look in your purse.”

Sharina did cooperate because she says she had nothing to hide.

Sharina Howard: “I wanted her to see I did not have this shirt and that I am not a criminal.”

Patrick Fraser: “Now Howard said if you think you are stopped unlawfully, you can sue. But unless you are arrested and taken to jail, it’s not worth a lawsuit. Bottom line, cooperate, clear things up. Then call corporate headquarters to let them know what happened.”

Picked up a problem that’s wearing on you? Don’t shop around, drop it with us, cause we are a bargain.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com

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