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Kohl’s apologizes after video shows California mom wrongly accused of shoplifting

A Castro Valley, California, mom says San Leandro Bayfair Mall Kohl’s security guards profiled her and wrongly accused her of shoplifting clothes she bought. She threatened action against Kohl’s. Kohl’s said the store has apologized.
A Castro Valley, California, mom says San Leandro Bayfair Mall Kohl’s security guards profiled her and wrongly accused her of shoplifting clothes she bought. She threatened action against Kohl’s. Kohl’s said the store has apologized. Screen grab from Facebook video

A Northern California mother says Kohl’s security guards wrongly accused her of shoplifting, and video of the incident that she shared on Facebook has been viewed nearly 50,000 times.

A store spokesperson said Kohl’s “apologized to the customer directly for her poor experience and (has) been in frequent dialogue with her, working toward a resolution,” KGO reports.

Yolanda Montoya of Castro Valley shared the story in a July 9 post, writing that a few days earlier she had been shopping at the Bayfair mall Kohl’s in San Leandro, hoping to find for a new outfit for her twins’ birthday party. She wrote that she tried on a handful of pieces of clothing in the fitting room, settled on one top that she liked, purchased it and left.

But out of nowhere, two security guards “aggressively approached” Montoya outside, she wrote, describing the men as “breathing hard to run and catch me, accusing me of shoplifting and telling me to step back into the store.” Montoya said she initially thought they were joking.

“I suddenly realized this was for real and I immediately was confused and angry at how they were handling the situation,” she wrote. “I began to feel sick to my stomach and shake, humiliated is an understatement!”

Montoya said she went back inside, where the guards blocked her in, apparently afraid she would try to leave. Around that point, the 11-minute video Montoya shared begins. She wrote that she knew she had to record the encounter for her safety, even though the men threatened to call the police if she didn’t stop filming, video shows.

The guards did call police. Meanwhile, Montoya said she told them to check her bags to prove she wasn’t shoplifting, but they wouldn’t.

“They could have easily checked my bags, but they didn’t,” Montoya said. “I have four children right now that I need to be home to, but yet I’m accused of shoplifting … Shame on all of you.”

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She accused the guards of targeting her because “I look like a broke mother with a backpack.”

Montoya wrote that she “was shaking so badly through this whole event” and was nearly vomiting “from the anger, hurt and disgust I felt about these men and their lies.”

As a police officer arrived, Montoya checked her bags, listing items inside: a wallet, diapers, sunscreen and clothing that belonged to her.

“There you go,” Montoya said in the video. “Shame on you guys — and I need an apology from all of you.”

Montoya wrote on Facebook that the guards “did not apologize and they refused to give me their names and info.” She accused them of profiling, harassing and humiliating her.

“These men need to be held accountable and I plan to take action!” Montoya wrote. “Kohl’s check your cameras and expect to ... (hear) from me!”

Kohl’s said in the statement it released that the company “prides itself on its customer service and creating a welcoming experience for all customers,” KGO reported. “We take allegations of this nature very seriously.”

Montoya did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.
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