Henrico mother accuses Food Lion employee of racially profiling sons

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A Henrico mother is accusing a Food Lion employee of racially profiling her two young sons.

Kristen Cotman said the incident happened when she was shopping at the Food Lion off of Nine Mile Road in Henrico County.

Cotman said after buying groceries, her 9-year-old son, Justin, said he needed to use the bathroom.

Cotman then asked her 14-year-old son, Jordan, to go with him. When they got back, she said she couldn’t believe what they had to say.

Cotman said her sons told her an employee of the store came in and started yelling at them to get out and even called the store’s security guard at one point who also came in and told them to leave. Cotman said she then confronted the guard.

“As a mother it really hurt me, it makes me angry, as a mother I have to protect my children,” Cotman said. “He said the reason he went in there was because they’ve had children stealing.”

Cotman said she immediately felt like her sons had been racially profiled.

“My sons do not steal, they don’t have a reason to steal and just because they’re young black males in a grocery store doesn’t mean that they’re stealing,” Cotman said.

Cotman said the situation left her sons scared and confused.

“I was really scared and I wanted to get out,” Justin Cotman said.

Jordan Cotman said he was simply waiting in the bathroom as his brother was inside the stall.

“I was confused, I was wondering why they came in like that,” Jordan Cotman said.

Cotman said she filed complaints with the store and Food Lion’s corporate headquarters who said they’d get back to her, but never did.

“No one contacted me back until after I got in contact with channel 8,” Cotman said.

8News reached out to Food Lion who sent us this statement:

Food lion’s top priority is our customers’ experience in our stores and that includes being treated with respect.  Once we heard about this situation, we took it very seriously and started gathering details from all involved, including Mrs. Cotman. Our investigation continues; however, we remain committed to taking the actions needed to make sure our customers are treated with dignity and respect at all times, and all associates adhere to our values as an inclusive and diverse organization.

Cotman said she’s speaking out to raise awareness.

“This should have never happened and I really, really do feel very disappointed,” Cotman said. “I just don’t want any other parents to have to go through it, I don’t want anything like this to ever happen,”

Food Lion said while they are investigating they cannot comment on specific employees or any action that may take place against an employee. But they do say that if the allegations are found to be true there could be changes to that store’s personnel.

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