Yogurt shop calls cops on black man overseeing a court-ordered visit between mom, son

Byron Ragland was supervising a custody meeting at a Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt in Kirkland, Washington, as a part of his job when owner Ramon Cruz called the police on him for being “suspicious,” a police report says.
Byron Ragland was supervising a custody meeting at a Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt in Kirkland, Washington, as a part of his job when owner Ramon Cruz called the police on him for being “suspicious,” a police report says. Screenshot from KIRO7

While he was observing a court-ordered visit between a 12-year-old boy and his mother as a part of his job, Byron Ragland had the cops called on him.

Ragland — a court-appointed special advocate and a visitation supervisor — told KIRO7 that he was watching the meeting between son and mother at a Menchie’s Yogurt Shop in Kirkland, Washington, earlier this month when a pair of officers approached him.

Ragland, who is black, said he “definitely thought it was profiling and discrimination,” according to KIRO7.

“Pretty much I look up, and these two police officers [are] standing in front, from what I remember there,” he told the outlet, “and the first comments were we need to leave the premises.”

Ramon Cruz, who owns that specific yogurt shop, called the Kirkland Police Department on November 7 and said someone at the store was “uncomfortable” because of Ragland, according to a report from the Kirkland Police Department.

Two employees told police that Ragland “had been in the store for a while and did not buy anything,” according to the police report.

At first, Ragland said he wasn’t going to leave, police say, but he later left the yogurt shop with the mother and son after authorities asked for him to provide more information. Two workers at the shop “were both thankful that Ragland was gone,” the police report says.

Michael Hayes, a black real estate investor in Memphis, Tennessee, was inspecting a house that needed repairs on May 5, 2018. A white woman who lived in the neighborhood decided to call 911 even after Hayes explained that he was an investor.

Ragland, who “was not arrested,” said he sadly wasn’t surprised by what happened, according to a column in The Seattle Times. He is a student at the University of Washington Tacoma.

Ragland says he was especially offended because an officer asked him to “move along,” a phrase he viewed as dismissive, according to The Seattle Times. The nine-year U.S. Air Force veteran said his black skin is likely the reason why police were called in the first place.

“You listen to that 911 call. (Cruz) says right in there that I’m not doing anything,” Ragland recalled, according to The Seattle Times. “But that’s all it takes in America — for you to be black, and to be somewhere you’re not supposed to be.

“And where you’re supposed to be is not up to you,” he continued. “It’s up to somebody else’s opinion.”

Cruz, who is a Filipino-American, argued that race had nothing to do the with the decision, according to KIRO7. He said he was on high alert because of a recent robbery at his business — and one of his workers texted him about how Ragland made her feel.

“In the text there was nothing about race, no color,” Cruz said, according to KIRO7. “I immediately, in front of my head, you know safety first. I called the police.”

“Now I know that was a mistake,” Cruz added to the TV station. “I should not have associated previous incidents in our other stores. But I would have done the same thing just for the safety of our staff.”

Cherie Harris, chief of the Kirkland Police Department, said her officers have already “initiated an investigation of the incident to determine if proper protocol was followed,” according to Patch. Cruz called Ragland “suspicious” in his 911 call, the outlet reported.

“Kirkland prides itself on being a safe, welcoming and inclusive community,” she told Patch, “and we take allegations of racial profiling very seriously.”

For Ragland, the emotional toll of something like this can prove challenging to handle.

“You want to stand up for yourself, as a man, or as someone who was just doing his job, and say, ‘Hey, this isn’t right,’ ” Ragland said, according to The Seattle Times. “But in the moment I’m thinking, ‘I’m a black man, and If I start emoting, I might not walk out of here.’

“And so you rationalize to yourself: ‘What’s the big deal, it’s just Menchie’s, just leave,’” he continued in an interview with the newspaper. “But then later, you realize that you gave in — that you consented that this is the way it’s going to be, to always be.”

A St. Louis woman says she and her friend were racially profiled at an Independence Applebee’s restaurant when staff accused them of leaving without paying their bill.