Adrienne Harreveld heard the electrified clap of the Taser.
When she turned around, she saw Deonte Rashad Holder, a 24-year-old Durham man, writhing on the floor near the salad bar at a Harris Teeter off Ninth Street. Three Durham police officers stood over him.
“He couldn’t open his eyes,” she told the INDY. “He was in a lot of pain.”
When Harreveld began to film the scene last Wednesday, a store manager ordered her to stop or she would be arrested for trespassing.
Harreveld, a program coordinator at Duke University’s Cook Center on Social Equity, complied, but she continued describing the scene on Twitter: “The fact that I can just witness someone get tased at Harris Teeter without even shoplifting … wake up Durham, wake up America,” she posted.
Within hours, Ross Grady, a local Twitter cognoscente, was shredding the grocery store for calling the police on a group of young black shoppers for no clear reason.
“Way to go, @HarrisTeeter, way to make your customers feel welcome,” Grady tweeted. “Threatening to charge them with trespassing & then Tasing them.”
The story was picked up by the local blog Clarion Content. It quickly turned into a social media firestormall of this, at least from DPD’s perspective, over a routine trespassing call.
Here is what we know: On the afternoon of Sept. 9, an unidentified store manager at the Harris Teeter off Ninth Street asked Holder and a few friends, all of whom were black, to leave. We do not know why. Holder was not found with any stolen goods, nor was there any report of unruly behavior. When Holder refused, the store manager called the cops.
Police say Holder “struggled” with them when they arrived. They Tasered him, arrested him and took him to the hospital for minor injuries. Later, he was charged with second-degree trespassing and resisting a public officer, both misdemeanors.
Responding to the social media outcry, Durham police issued a short statement on the arrest promising an investigation of the incidentstandard procedure when an officer deploys a Taser.
In the days since the arrest, little new information has emerged. (On Monday, DPD finally released the incident report, which on Friday a spokeswoman said hadn’t been filed yet.)
Neither Holder nor the witnesses listed in the police report could be reached for comment. C. Scott Holmes, the Durham defense attorney who is handling Holder’s case, declined to talk, too.
Online conversations about Holder’s arrest frequently mention that he is African-American, suggesting that the incident was racially motivated. However, Durham police say the Tasering was performed D.S. Culver, a black corporal in the department.
But what Harreveld reported that day has some in the community questioning Holder’s arrestand why the store wanted to boot him in the first place. The Durham branch of the state NAACP, in fact, has begun its own investigation.
(The grocery store is private property, so a store manager can ask any individual to leave the store or risk arrest for trespassing, according to state law.)
Harreveld says she asked a store manager for security camera footage of the incident, but was rebuffed. Danna Robinson, a spokeswoman for the grocery store chain, which was purchased by Ohio-based Kroger in 2013, also rejected the INDY‘s request for store footage.
A manager at the grocery store could not be reached for comment. But Robinson asserted to the INDY multiple times Monday that Holder had been “trespassed” from the store, meaning he was ordered to leave and never return.
However, Robinson refused to say why or when Holder was trespassed. She also declined to explain the store’s trespassing policy.
“We spend a lot of money advertising to get people in the store,” she added. “I can tell you we wouldn’t kick someone out without good reason.”
In a statement, Harris Teeter indicated the incident was about the safety of its customers and employees, but it provided no details: “While the incident … was an isolated situation, we take it very seriously and are examining to understand what happened, why it happened, and what we can do about it in the future.”
Harreveld says she knew something was wrong when she walked into the grocery store. It was about 5 p.m., and a police officer was handcuffing an unidentified black teenager at the store’s entrance.
“Why are you arresting me?” the teenager asked repeatedly. Harreveld says that when she began to film the arrest, the officer grumbled at her, “Fine then,” and let him go.
Inside the store, Harreveld saw police talking to Holder. When she turned around, she heard the Taser go off.
“There was no struggle,” she says. “If there was a struggle, I would have heard it.”
Even though there was no report of theft, Harreveld says police searched Holder and found nothing. After deliberating over whether Holder should be taken to the hospital, the cops called the paramedics.
Harreveld posted a short video of the aftermath on Twitter. In the scene, a Harris Teeter employee can be seen in the frame just before she is ordered to stop filming.
Before she left, Harreveld complained to Officer Culver about what she’d witnessed. “He didn’t steal anything,” she told him.
Culver’s response, according to Harreveld: “I don’t care if he didn’t steal anything. He was trespassing, so he’s going to jail.”
This article appeared in print with the headline “Tasers, Twitter and Harris Teeter”