2018 was the year of 'Living While Black': An update on the most controversial cases

Elise Solé
“Apartment Patty,” “Cornerstore Caroline” and “Permit Patty” all called 911 on people of color. (Photos: Facebook/D’Arreion Nuriyah Toles, Facebook/Jason Stovetop Littlejohn, Instagram/ladyesowavy)
“Apartment Patty,” “Cornerstore Caroline” and “Permit Patty” all called 911 on people of color. (Photos: Facebook/D’Arreion Nuriyah Toles, Facebook/Jason Stovetop Littlejohn, Instagram/ladyesowavy)

Before sliding into 2019, Yahoo Lifestyle takes a quick look back at some of the year’s biggest stories, and what’s happened since, with Rewind 2018.

This year, emotional-support 911 calls to report people of color going about their business inspired the hashtags, #LivingWhileBlack, #SwimmingWhileBlack, #MovingWhileBlack, #CanvassingWhileBlack, #BabysittingWhileBlack, #EatingOutWhileBlack, #SmokingWhileBlack.

One victim wasn’t even alive — #MourningWhileBlack involved a deceased grandmother kicked out of her own funeral because a grieving family member accidentally knocked over a church decoration. The woman’s distraught family carried her casket outside midfuneral.

“People of color are questioned on a daily basis about where they fit in public spaces or whether they match people’s expectations,” Anita Jones Thomas, dean of the College of Applied Behavioral Sciences at the University of Indianapolis, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

After a person is exposed for using racist language or calling the police on people of color for “suspicious” behavior, the video gets millions of views, and if the suspects don’t vanish from social media, they publicly defend themselves.

“We’re post-Obama so there’s an impression that racism is over or that it’s only associated with power and institutional policies, but stereotypes lead to racism, even if you don’t describe yourself as racist,” says Thomas.

For example, assuming that black people don’t live in upscale homes, such as with the woman called “Apartment Patty,” who harassed, stalked and called the police on D’Arreion Toles for entering his own apartment building in St. Louis. When social media gave Hilary Thornton her nickname, she defended her reputation and it was discovered that her estranged husband is African-American.

Thornton is one person to deny her self-imposed fame. Here’s an update on some of the most controversial #WhileBlack cases (no one mentioned returned Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment).

Posted by D'Arreion Nuriyah Toles on Friday, October 12, 2018

Apartment Patty: “I do not think I did anything wrong.”

After blocking neighbor Toles from entering their mutual St. Louis apartment building in October, Thornton — legally Hilary Brooke Mueller and infamously “Apartment Patty— lost her realtor job at Tribeca-STL for racial profiling.

“Please move, ma’am,” Toles said on the video he recorded.

“I can — do you live here?” responded Thornton, demanding to know his apartment number. Toles identified himself as a tenant but refused to provide his unit, so Thornton wouldn’t budge. “You don’t have a key fob,” she protested.

Thornton then followed Toles down the hallway, demanding, “Where are you going?” and even joined him in the elevators. “Who are you going to the fourth floor to see?” she harassed him. “I would like to know whose friends — and why you’re here.”

Despite watching Toles enter his apartment with his own house keys, Thornton called 911, although according to Phoenix news outlet ABC15, no police report was filed with the Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

Having watched the Facebook video, Tribeca-STL — a self-described minority-owned company — fired Thornton over the “disturbing interaction.” Its statement read in part, “We…never will stand for racism or racial profiling at our company.” And Thornton’s estranged husband Brandon Mueller, who is African-American, expressed his “deep disappointment” over the incident in a Facebook video.

In an exclusive interview with FOX 2 St. Louis, Thornton said she was following the direction of her homeowners association, which prohibits residents from allowing building access to strangers. Thornton also said her newfound rep as a racist was “false and heartbreaking. And those are words that truly cut deep.”

However, Thornton said she had no regrets about the incident and would like to meet her neighbor Toles — in a friendlier setting.

Robert Ortiz: “At the end of the day, my actions were unjustifiable.”

Brooklyn resident Robert Ortiz, who called 911 on his Lyft driver for refusing to turn on the radio and using the N-word while he was at it, didn’t earn a catchy nickname on Twitter, but he did lose his job.

During the 16-minute video shot in October by driver Shawn Pepas Lettman, Ortiz and his two friends threatened to “make your night a living hell” and spat, “F*** Black Lives Matter” from the back seat of Lettman’s parked car. Ortiz claimed the driver was “racist against gay people” and “I know my legal rights as an American citizen that voted for Trump…” He also called Lyft and law enforcement.

In a statement sent to Yahoo Lifestyle, Lyft called Ortiz’s behavior “extremely concerning” and medical clinic CityMD said it had fired Ortiz. “This is to confirm that this individual was terminated and is no longer employed by or affiliated with CityMD in any capacity,” the company wrote on Facebook.

A few days later, Ortiz told Pix11, “At the end of the day, my actions were unjustifiable. There’s nothing that I can say but this: I was drinking — a lot of the stuff I said, I didn’t remember until the next day. That’s not how I was raised to treat people. I grew up in the projects. So I want to make sure people understand that I’m not racist.”

Ortiz said that Lettman singled him out because he’s gay and Puerto Rican. “We know discrimination, we smell it in the air,” he told Pix11. “You just know when someone is uncomfortable with you.”

He also made a YouTube apology saying his “unacceptable” actions were the result of Lettman calling the police first and falsely reporting a robbery by gunmen. He also admitted that his racist words were an attempt to “get under [Lettman’s] skin.”

“When the video went viral, I tried to ignore it. But when it affected my job the following day when I lost it, it gave me a realization,” said Ortiz. “I know I’m going to get through this. The only thing I’m asking is to move forward.”

*Make this go viral*Meet Cornerstore CarolineWhite Woman calls police on a kid, saying he sexually assaulted her.As I walked up I noticed the argument, apparently the kid brushed up against her and she said he touched her and decided to call police on a nine year old child. As you can see the kid is crying and the mom is upset.

Posted by Jason Stovetop Littlejohn on Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Cornerstore Caroline: “I regret that I escalated the situation.”

In October, Teresa Klein of New York City accused 9-year-old Jeremiah Harvey of groping her inside Sahara Deli in Flatbush, N.Y., when he accidentally brushed her with his backpack. Outside the store, with a hysterical Jeremiah, his sister, and his mother Someko Bellille, Klein told a 911 operator on the phone, “I want the cops here right now. The son grabbed my a**.”

“I’ve just been sexually assaulted by a child!” Klein yelled in the Facebook video shot by witness Jason Stovetop Littlejohn.

But store security footage tweeted by a N.Y. PIX11 reporter revealed that when Jeremiah walked past Klein, only his book bag possibly made contact with her body, showing no evidence that he assaulted Klein.

According to PIX11, police officers responded to the call after everyone dispersed, but a representative of the New York City Police Department told Yahoo Lifestyle that no police reports for the incident were on file.

The deli owner also told Pix11 of Klein, “The woman has a history of being ‘unwell.’”

Klein did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comments and her phone number was nonworking. In October, she told Inside Edition, “What I felt was [contact] across both cheeks. I didn’t know what had happened. I regret that I escalated the situation. I should simply have said, ‘Don’t touch me.’ I shouldn’t have cursed.'”

But Jeremiah wasn’t having it, telling New York’s WABC, “I don’t forgive this woman, and she needs help.”

Permit Patty: “I’m not proud of how I acted.”

The fallout from San Francisco resident Alison Ettel allegedly calling the police on an 8-year-old girl selling water outside their apartment building forced her resignation as CEO of cannabis company TreatWell Health.

Ettel, 44, got famous in June when the girl’s mother, Erin Austin, posted a video of Ettel accusing her daughter Jordan Rodgers of “illegally selling water without a permit.” The family was reportedly trying to raise money for a trip to Disneyland.

However, Ettel told Huffington Post that she just pretended to call 911 and “this has no racial component to it.”

“They were screaming about what they were selling,” she told the website. “It was literally nonstop. It was every two seconds, ‘Come and buy my water.’ It was continuous and it wasn’t a soft voice, it was screaming.” She also confessed, “I had been putting up with this for hours, and I just snapped. … I have no problem with enterprising young women. I want to support that little girl. It was all the mother and just about being quiet.”

Ettel also told Today that she first “tried to be polite,” asking those in the family to lower their voices — which Austin denies — however, “I’m not proud of how I acted. I would have taken a walk. I would have done something, not that. It was all in the heat of the moment, and it was wrong.”

Pool Patrol Peter (aka ID Adam): “I express my sincere regret for the actions I took that day.”

North Carolina’s Adam Bloom refused to apologize for calling the police on Jasmine Edwards Abhulimen and her child for using a Winston-Salem, N.C., pool on the Fourth of July, but losing his job at packing company Sonoco Products made him remorseful.

“I think I could have handled it differently and better and been more empathetic to how she may have felt from my interaction,” Bloom told Winston-Salem, N.C., news station WXII12 in July. “And for that, I sincerely apologize. … if I, in any way, made her feel uncomfortable, unwanted, unwelcome, especially with her child there, I want to offer my sincerest apology for that.”

Over that holiday weekend, Bloom, a former member of the Glenridge Homeowners Association and “pool chairman,” asked Edwards for her address and an ID to prove she had pool privileges. When Abhulimen refused his second request, he called the police.

Abhulimen filmed the conversation with Bloom and police officers, saying, “Is there an ordinance that we have to show ID to use the pool?” She pointed out that no one else at the pool was asked for ID. “I am the only black — I feel this is racial profiling.”

The mom even showed police a swipe card she used to enter the pool. “They kinda make their way around sometimes,” Bloom told the cops in the video. “But that’s good enough for me today.”

“There was nothing about her as a person that was suspicious,” Bloom told WXII12, saying that Abhulimen had confusingly provided two different addresses. Bloom, who resigned from his position as pool chairman and at the Homeowners Association, told the station that he wouldn’t have handled the situation differently had Abhulimen been white and that his neighborhood stands for diversity.

**MAKE THIS GO VIRAL** Whyt woman calls 911 on us during our Stop the Violence walk in North Charleston. She is the Manager at Murphy's Gas Station on the Corner of Rivers Ave and Otranto rd. She says she doesn't care about our money, just leave the store. We stopped there to get the children some drinks after we walked a mile during our Rally. I thought 911 was for emergencies???? Their customer service number is 1-800-843-4298. The store location is 8599 Rivers Ave, North Charleston, SC 29406.. Call the store and let them know we will be boycotting. Her hashtag is #GasStationGail

Posted by Shakem Akhet on Sunday, October 14, 2018

Gas Station Gail: “We express our regret for any actions on our part.”

In October, South Carolina activist Jonathan Thrower made a Facebook video of Murphy’s gas station manager Brenda Metz calling the police on him and a group of young people who had just come from peacefully protesting in North Charleston, S.C.

Thrower told Yahoo Lifestyle that while his group, which included children as young as 1, was inside the store buying water, Metz arrived outside, yelling, “Leave now! Leave now! I’m calling 911” and then called the police.

A 911 call published by Charleston City Paper revealed Metz saying, “I need a police officer now. I have, like, 30 people standing out here and they will not leave. … They’re standing there, they’re ‘Guns Down Chuck Town’ something,” she said about the group’s statement shirts. “I mean, it’s like a riot out here.”

A spokesperson from Murphy USA told Yahoo Lifestyle that police were called due to “safety issues” like disrupting store traffic and shutting down the fuel pipes. The representative also said that Thrower’s group refused to leave the station when asked.

Nine days later, executives from Murphy USA gas stations met with Thrower, and the company gave a statement to Charleston, S.C., news outlet WCSC: “We had productive meetings in North Charleston today concerning the situation at our station on October 14th. We came to listen and understand their perspective, express our regret for any actions on our part that have detracted from the anti-violence message that the march was intended to portray and express our commitment to becoming a great partner in the North Charleston community going forward.”

Metz hung up on Yahoo Lifestyle when called for comment in October.

Baggage Claim Becky: “We apologize to this customer for her experience.”

In September, a Delta Air Lines employee called the police on a woman trying to file a claim on her damaged luggage, and the carrier provided a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle: “We apologize to this customer for her experience in the Boston baggage service office and Delta is in contact with her to better understand what transpired. We take situations like these seriously and we are working directly with this customer to use this as an opportunity to learn from her experience and improve on future customer interactions.”

Passenger Arlene (who asked to withhold her last name for privacy) told Yahoo Lifestyle that during an Aug. 24 flight from Kentucky to Massachusetts, her suitcase got ripped, and while filing a baggage claim, Delta employees were problematic.

“I was on the phone with my friend and mentioned they were talking about me,” Arlene told Yahoo Lifestyle. “Then one told me, ‘No one is talking about you. You’re out of your mind.’”

Arlene filed a claim with a manager who she said was “dismissive.” Later, an employee named Teddra refused to provide the manager’s name to Arlene and called for police assistance.

“Hey, Frank, it’s Teddra. Can I have the state police in baggage, please?” she said in the video. “I have a lady who is in my face recording me and won’t leave the office.”

.“At that point, I left, intending to call Delta the next day,” Arlene told Yahoo Lifestyle. “I studied criminal justice and sociology and I knew if I met with them, it might have escalated. I didn’t want to go to jail. It felt like a life-or-death situation.”

Arlene suspected her race was relevant. “If a white person calls the police on a black person, it can end badly. If I were white, she may not have called.”

Dollar General Clerk Calls Cops on Black Shopper For ‘Scheming’ with the Store’s Digital Coupons

ANOTHER ONE! COUPON KEN!A shopping trip to Dollar General went south for a Buffalo, N.Y. woman who says a cashier called police on her for using store coupons, accusing her of “trying to take advantage of the system.”According to Yahoo Lifestyle, schoolteacher Madonna Burke was trying to buy $30 worth of groceries last Wednesday using digital coupons. That’s when she said the cashier, identified as Ken Dudek, grew frustrated and blew up on her. She captured their tense exchange in a video uploaded to Facebook.“… The manager at Dollar General on Genesee Street in Buffalo New York felt he needed to call the police on a ‘Black woman’ — ME who was taking advantage of the coupon system,” Wilburn wrote on her page. “I had no coupons in my hand, and they are all digital coupons on their app.”Wilburn explained that one of the coupons promised $5 back when she spent $30 on Gain Scents products, while the others ranged from $0.50 to $2 off the other items she purchased.“[Dudek] could not figure it out,” she continued. “Told me he hate people like me, told me to shut up, and more. I eventually pulled out my phone….and started recording to protect myself against his nasty attitude in case anything happened. Now him and his wife inboxing me.”A 3-minute clip of the incident shows Dudek refusing to honor the woman’s store coupons, saying, “Just trying to take advantage of the system is what you’re doing, and I don’t have to do it if I don’t want to.”“But you just said you don’t like people like me?,” Wilburn replies.Dudek denies her statement and grows visibly frustrated with Wilburn. The special education teacher was reportedly trying to “stack” her manufacturer coupons with digital coupons on the app in an effort to maximize her savings.“You’ve already gotten $15 off of these products, and you’re trying to play games with the digital coupons and it’s not going to work,” he says in the video. “We’re done — I’m giving you my boss’s number. She can fix it from here, OK?”Dudek frantically scribbles a number on a piece of paper before handing it to Wilburn, saying he was fed up with her “nonsense” and “attitude.” After realizing his antics are being filmed, the cashier tells Wilburn she doesn’t have permission to film him and calls a manager named Felicia to have her call the police.“I have a customer who is being difficult and taping us without permission,” he says into the phone. “And I’d like you to dispatch the police if possible. Black female, green shirt, blue shirt.”The encounter is the latest in a string of high-profile instances of police being called on African-Americans by white people. Just last week, a CVS manager dialed the cops on a Black woman falsely accused of using a “fraudulent” paper coupon.Wilburn waited outside for a police officer, who suggested she call the company’s corporate office, Yahoo Lifestyle reported. No action was taken against her. After the incident, Wilburn said two of Dudek’s relatives reached out to her on Facebook. She also said Dudek threatened to contact his attorney if she didn’t remove video of the incident from Facebook.Wilburn said the entire ordeal left her feeling “attacked.”“It’s embarrassing, people are looking at you as if you’re scheming, like you’re some type of thief or something,” she told The Buffalo News. ” … “That attacked so many different parts of me because I’m a female, I’m a black female, I’m a couponer. So, what do you hate?”Dollar General issued a statement on the matter and said the incident is under investigation:“Dollar General is committed to helping American families stretch their budgets. As part of that commitment, we encourage customers to utilize both digital and manufacturer coupons to help them save money off our everyday low prices. We always strive to deliver the best possible customer service and we are disappointed when this does not occur. We take matters like this very seriously and are fully investigating the incident.”#COUPONKEN#DOLLARGENERAL

Posted by Whatdee Phuck on Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Coupon Ken: “My life is destroyed over coupons.”

In July, New York teacher Madonna Wilburn tried to use digital coupons to purchase cleaning supplies at Dollar General when cashier Ken Dudek said she was “trying to take advantage of the system.”

Wilburn wrote on Facebook that Dudek got annoyed while processing the coupons. “Told me he hates people like me, told me to shut up, and more. I eventually pulled out my phone…and started recording to protect myself against his nasty attitude in case anything happened…now him and his wife inboxing me.”

In Wilburn’s video, Dudek said, “Just trying to take advantage of the system, is what you’re doing, and I don’t have to do it if I don’t want to.” He also denied saying he “hates people like you” and accused Wilburn of “trying to play games.”

Annoyed, Dudek called an employee. “And I’d like you to dispatch the police if possible,” he says. “Black female, green shirt, blue shirt.” Wilburn briefly spoke to the police outside and went home.

Wilburn told Yahoo Lifestyle, “What the video didn’t capture was this man telling me to ‘shut up,’ and ‘I hate people like you.’ Did he mean women? Black women? People who coupon?’”

Dollar General fired Dudek and Wilburn hired lawyer William Wagstaff who told BuzzFeed News, “When someone says to a black person ‘you people,’ they’re being racist, referring to black people pejoratively.”

A week after Dudek was named “Coupon Ken,” he spoke to Buffalo, N.Y., news outlet WIVB. “My life is destroyed over coupons and because we both got frustrated.”

Dudek said logistical errors led to the 30-minute exchange. “If they would have investigated fully, they would have seen that the problem is in the way that they address their security and the way their coupon system works.”

“We couldn’t figure out,” he said. “Two of us couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t coming up on the register, so we’re both getting frustrated. She’s getting frustrated because this should be simple. My employees are getting frustrated because they can’t figure it out either. And she had all the coupons correctly.”

The former employee told WIVB that he called authorities only because Wilburn refused to leave the store. “I followed General Dollar’s procedures,” he said. “I don’t fault Ms. Wilburn. It’s unfortunate that this incident happened, but I think it’s a product of the environment that Dollar General sets for us.”

Dudek has received death threats since the viral video. “We don’t park in our driveway right now because I don’t want people to slash my tires.”

Y’all here is another Permit Patty trying to kick me off my own property because she’s having a hard time getting her kids to take a nap at 3:30 in the afternoon on a Saturday. I’m outside enjoying the afternoon with my daughter when this women came downstairs and asked me if I would move so her kids can nap. Mind you it’s mid day and we weren’t even being loud at all drawing with chalk. She followed me around and harassed me trying to get my information and apartment number as if she had a right to know. When I wouldn’t tell her she proceeded to ask me if I lived in the “affordable apartments” of the building for Cambridge residents or if I lived in one of the Harvard owned apartments (which is all the same building anyways). It was totally discriminating and racist of her.. or maybe it was because my daughter is biracial who knows. I have no idea who this woman is and the fact that she thinks she has some kind of authority over me is crazy! She wanted to know what apartment number I lived at so she can yell outside my window to see if I like it (real mature) as you hear her say in the video. This woman’s house is no bigger than mine even if she lives in one of the apartments that are owned by Harvard. Despite color, where I live, how much money I have she will be buried 6 feet under just like me… Why do people think they are literally better than others? Why does she think she has a right to make us move? If she really did not want to be disturbed she would own a one family house instead of deciding on moving in to a condominium with a bunch of neighbors. I’ve lived in this complex for 15 years. Not one other person complained about my daughter and I. I have no idea who this woman is but if someone knows her please tag her and share this if you agree!!!!

Posted by Alyson Laliberte on Saturday, July 14, 2018

Sidewalk Susie: “This clearly wasn’t my best moment, and I have work to do to more consistently be my best self.”

Harvard University employee Theresa Lund was placed on leave in July for harassing a mother and her biracial child playing outside their Cambridge, Mass., home asking, “Are you in one of the affordable units?”

Mom Alyson Laliberte posted a video of Lund, writing, “I’m outside enjoying the afternoon with my daughter when this woman came downstairs and asked me if I would move so her kids can nap. Mind you it’s midday and we weren’t even being loud at all drawing with chalk. She followed me around and harassed me trying to get my information and apartment number as if she had a right to know. When I wouldn’t tell her she proceeded to ask me if I lived in the ‘affordable apartments’ of the building for Cambridge residents or if I lived in one of the Harvard owned apartments (which is all the same building anyways).”

Laliberte wrote, It was totally discriminating and racist of her…or maybe it was because my daughter is biracial who knows.”

On camera, Lund sat next to the mom, asking, “Are you in one of the affordable units? Or are you in one of the Harvard units?” Lund threatened to “come outside your window and scream.”

Harvard’s student newspaper the Crimson reported that Lund was placed on leave “effective immediately” and that she reportedly deleted her social media accounts. Two days later, Lund apologized in a statement to the Boston Globe.

“I want to be accountable for my actions in a situation where I fell far short of my values and what I expect of myself,” she wrote. “This clearly wasn’t my best moment, and I have work to do to more consistently be my best self.”

The executive director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative also told the Boston Globe that she “should not have addressed [Laliberte’s] daughter, and there was no reason for me to ask what type of unit she lives in.”

“I offered my sincere apology to her, her mother, and her daughter in person [Sunday] morning,” wrote Lund. “I love our community and am committed to engaging in dialogue and actions about how to make it more welcoming and pleasant for all of us to live in together.”

Lund’s profile was reportedly erased from the Harvard website; however, it’s currently active.