Clayton's Police Chief is defending his department's actions after officers stopped a group of 10 African-American incoming Washington University students asking them about a dine and dash incident that happened at IHOP on Clayton Avenue July 7.
"We haven`t clarified any of this with the young people that I have asked to speak with," said police chief, Kevin Murphy, after Fox 2 asked if the department would be issuing an apology.
The eatery placed a call about the incident describing that four black men left without paying a $62 bill.
When police officers arrived, they stopped the group as they walked toward as MetroLink stop near The Galleria.
"A couple of people had receipts that they produced at that time," Murphy explained, "typically the protocol is that the sergeant called an officer to bring the manager down to the scene."
Murphy said that instead, two of the students suggested they all walk back to the eatery which was just a block or two away.
Accompanying them were four patrol cars, three belonging to Clayton Police and one belonging to the Richmond Heights Police Department.
"When the manager saw these young people he said these are not the people responsible for the incident," Murphy said.
The officers told the students they were free to leave.
Murphy said that his officers were following protocol, adding that the particular IHOP has called for about 45 dine and dash incidents since January.
"Unless I find out something different, there is no showing that the officers were either unprofessional nor that they violated our department policy at this point," Murphy said.
Murphy said that shortly after the incident, the next day one of the students filed a report with police claiming that he and the other students were falsely accused.
That in turn also got officials from Washington U involved, showing their support for the students.
"We are deeply concerned and disappointed that anyone – certainly any of our students – would experience what transpired on July 7. The fact that these 10 students, all of whom are African American, were scared and humiliated is unacceptable to us. We have shared that sentiment directly with the City of Clayton and have had an opportunity to meet with city leaders to reiterate our concerns. Conversations continue and we are hopeful that our students will hear directly from the City of Clayton with both an explanation and an apology.
Like all of our Washington University students, the incoming first-year students who were involved in this incident are truly exceptional. They were recruited from all over the United States and, as high-school students, worked tremendously hard with an eye toward attending an institution like ours. We, and many of our peer institutions, competed head-to-head to recruit them. The community in which they would learn, live, socialize and engage was a very important factor in deciding which school they would attend. We won their confidence and they chose to join our student body because they believed they would have an exceptional experience at Washington University and here in St. Louis. It is extremely disappointing that they have been so seriously let down, even before the official start of their first semester.
Washington University and the City of Clayton, one of the jurisdictions we call home, have a long-standing, positive working relationship. We hope and would expect that a situation like this would be avoided in the future."
"Until I have the opportunity to talk with these young people what I know is what a third party is saying about this," Murphy said in response to the statement.
"I'll just turn it around, would the university let me stand in front and issue a statement for a third party? I mean if the roles were reversed? No they would want to do an investigation and that is what we are trying to do but at the same time we are trying to work with the university."
The incident isn`t sitting well with the St. Louis County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
"It`s unfortunate that the police department took on a grave lack of judgment," said Spokesperson John Gaskin. "I think they most certainly have some explaining to do and they owe those young people and their parents an apology."
Murphy said that he will be meeting with the parents of the student who initially filed the complaint.
Fox 2 also reached out to city mayor Harold Sanger who directed our request for comment to the police department.
Statement from the City of Clayton:
Saturday, July 7
At approximately 12:52 AM, the Clayton Police Department was dispatched for customers leaving without paying their bills, commonly referred to as "dine and dash", at IHOP at 8049 Clayton Road. The caller reported that four African American males in their late teens, early twenties left the restaurant without paying their bill of approximately $61. The suspects were described as wearing basketball shorts and two white tees, and were believed to be heading toward the Richmond Heights MetroLink station.
Upon receipt of the call, a Clayton officer made contact with the manager of IHOP. The manager reported the suspects included four African American males: two were wearing white tees, one wearing black pants with a possible white stripe, and one wearing red. The manager stated that the suspects headed south on Brentwood toward Homewood Suites and possibly Richmond Heights MetroLink station.
After searching the area, an officer in a neighboring jurisdiction notified dispatchers that a group of individuals potentially matching the description of the suspects had been located near Galleria Parkway. A Clayton officer contacted the individuals and observed that there were several individuals meeting the description, including African American males in white shirts, black pants, and one individual wearing red. Members of the group were carrying bags and upon closer inspection, the officer identified that the bags were labeled from IHOP. To confirm, the officer asked if they had just dined at IHOP and the group confirmed that they just left the restaurant. The officer explained that a call was made to report a theft.
Three receipts from the group of ten individuals were presented. Two of the individuals, one wearing white and one wearing red, stated they paid cash for their meals and presented no receipts. Two individuals offered to walk back to the restaurant to confirm their payment with the restaurant. The group then proceeded north on Brentwood toward IHOP, while remaining of the west side of the roadway until crossing at Clayton Road and Brentwood Boulevard. Two police vehicles then parked on the east side of the roadway until the individuals reached the IHOP parking lot.
Upon returning to IHOP, the manager confirmed they were not the suspects and the officer expressed appreciation for their time.
Tuesday, July 10
The parents of a Washington University student filed a complaint at 7:12 PM notifying the Clayton Police Department of their concerns.
Wednesday, July 11
The investigation into the complaint begins.
Washington University contacted the City of Clayton to schedule a meeting and notify the City of their concerns.
Thursday, July 12
Leadership from Washington University and City of Clayton met. The Clayton Police Department requested names of the students and parents to reach out to them to follow up on concerns. Washington University informed the City that they preferred to wait for the Police Department to speak with students until after their testing and agreed they would set up meetings with the students. Washington University officials said they would reach out to the Clayton Police Department with an update the week of July 16.
Monday, July 16
Chief Murphy spoke with parents who filed complaint on July 10, 2018 to discuss concerns and incident.