EL SEGUNDO – A 55-year-old Black woman who sued the city of El Segundo and the parent company of Anthropologie stores, alleging she was arrested and falsely accused of shoplifting in 2019 because of the color of her skin, has reached a partial settlement of her case.
Attorneys for plaintiff Sheronda M. Bonner filed court papers Friday with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Monica L. Bachner stating that the part of her case against the city was resolved. No terms were divulged and the court papers were unclear whether the accord is subject to approval by the City Council.
The portion of Bonner’s case against Urban Outfitters Inc. will move forward. In their court papers, attorneys for the company state that store employees had a “good faith and reasonable belief” that Bonner was involved in an earlier theft, while in their court papers attorneys for the city denied any wrongdoing on the part of the police officers.
Bonner filed the case in August 2020, alleging civil rights violations, false arrest and imprisonment, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligent supervision. She sought unspecified damages.
“This case arises from employees of an Anthropologie store who see an entitlement that says only certain people belong in the store, their unfounded and false report to the El Segundo Police Department that accused plaintiff of grand theft and the El Segundo Police Department’s false arrest of Sheronda M. Bonner, an older Black woman,” the suit states.
El Segundo police handcuffed the plaintiff and put her in jail, according to her court papers.
“They required her to remove her bra and she spent numerous hours in jail until she posted bond — all because of the color of her skin,” the suit alleges.
Bonner went to Anthropologie on Sepulveda Boulevard with a male companion on Aug. 24, 2019, and looked at a romper and a long dress, but she did not buy anything because the prices were too high, the suit states. She had a bag that measured eight inches by five inches and held her cell phone, credit cards and car keys, but neither she nor her companion, who is not a plaintiff, had a shopping bag, according to the suit.
After leaving the store, ESPD officers detained Bonner and her companion, told them that “cameras were rolling” and that they were the subject of an investigation because the store manager identified them as shoplifters, the suit states.
“Employees of Anthopologie stores have confirmed they were told to watch people of color closely and would refer to them as “nicks” to other employees,” the complaint alleges.
Anthropologie previously sold a candlestick that resembled an Aunt Jemima figure, the suit states. In 2003, the stores sold a Monopoly knockoff, “Ghettopoly,” that featured properties with names such as “Cheap Trick Avenue” and “Smitty’s XXX Peep,” according to the suit, which says the NAACP “called for the end to the production and sale of the racist board game.”
Both Bonner and her companion were arrested, although he was cited and released after about four hours, the suit says. She was not let out until she posted $2,000 bail, and she was placed on leave from her job at Los Angeles International Airport pending the resolution of the case, which ended with no charges filed, according to the suit.
Based on the allegedly false shoplifting report by the Anthropologie manager and lack of probable cause by the ESPD to arrest Bonner, the plaintiff suffered economic damages and emotional distress, the suit states.