Columbia Mall, store sued by woman over searches

She says she, son were targeted because of race

April 30, 1999|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

A Laurel mother is suing The Mall in Columbia and a store that sells educational toys, claiming that store employees and mall security guards targeted her and two teen-age boys for suspected shoplifting because they are black.

The lawsuit, filed last week in Howard County Circuit Court, says that Sandra Allen, her 14-year-old son and his friend were eating at the mall Dec. 21, 1995. Afterward, her son and the friend went into the Learningsmith store.

As the boys were leaving, they were stopped by Learningsmith employees and mall security guards, who told the boys to empty their pockets and open their jackets, the lawsuit says.

The boys complied and were searched, the suit says. A Learningsmith employee told Allen that no workers had seen the boys steal anything, the suit claims.

When Allen and the boys tried to leave the mall, the boys were searched again before a crowd of onlookers, the suit says. Employees said they wanted to search Allen as well, the suit claims.

A few months after the incident, Allen filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, said her attorney, David Douglass. That suit was dismissed earlier this year by a judge who ruled there were no grounds for it in federal court, Douglass said.

Allen filed another lawsuit April 19 in Howard County Circuit Court seeking $1.2 million in damages.

"They humiliated a very respectable woman," Douglass said.

An official with the Rouse Co. said he had not been served with the suit. "The suit has been dismissed at the federal level," said David Tripp, vice president and director of corporate communications, who would not comment further.

Learningsmith Inc. employees did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Pub Date: 4/30/99

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