Starbucks customer complains that police mixed her up with 'erratically' behaving woman: 'Is she Latina like me?'

Elise Solé
A California Starbucks customer filed a claim against the San Pablo Police Department for threatening to arrest her in a mistaken identity incident. (Screenshot: Facebook/The San Pablo Police Department)
A California Starbucks customer filed a claim against the San Pablo Police Department for threatening to arrest her in a mistaken identity incident. (Photo: Facebook/the San Pablo Police Department)

Police found themselves on the defensive recently after confronting the wrong Starbucks customer, following reports that someone in the cafe was behaving “erratically.”

On Wednesday, the San Pablo Police Department in California released body-camera footage on Facebook in response to a claim filed by the falsely accused woman. In the footage, from the afternoon of March 18, a man, and a woman named Guadalupe Tamayo, were sitting at Starbucks in the neighborhood of Princeton Plaza when officers appeared and told Tamayo to leave the store.

“From my understanding, they don’t have a problem with you in here,” an officer said to the man, before referring to the woman. “I just spoke to the employees here and they say they don’t want her here.”

Tamyao’s friend stated that the suspect had already left the store. “I just got here three minutes ago,” explained Tamayo.

“I’m just telling you what they told me,” said the cop. “So if you don’t leave now…”

Tamayo reiterated that she had just arrived.

“That’s besides the point,” answered the officer. “They’re saying they don’t want you here. So you can get up and go, or you’re going to be arrested for trespassing. It’s up to you.”

“Oh wow. Lawsuit,” said Tamayo, laughing. “Does the person look like me? Is she Latina like me?”

The officer threatened to arrest Tamayo again but she replied, “I’m not leaving. You’ve got the wrong person.”

The officer then left to speak with an employee. “You’re sure that’s her, right?” he asked.

“No, that’s not the lady,” said the employee. “She left — she ran away when we called.”

The officer returned and apologized to Tamayo, “There was a miscommunication,” he said. When Tamayo told him to follow through on his threats, he said, “There’s nothing to arrest you for. There’s nothing going on here. They said you’re free to stay.

“I’m reporting this to the federal government,” Tamayo’s friend told the officer.

A representative for the San Pablo Police Department told Yahoo Lifestyle that a Starbucks employee had called about possible drug activity involving Tamayo’s male friend and a different woman who was behaving “erratically” in a car outside Starbucks (though officers could not substantiate those claims).

“The officers first spoke to a Starbucks employee, although we are looking into why body cameras did not record that conversation,” the police spokesperson told Yahoo Lifestyle. “We don’t have any reason to just walk in and tell someone to leave on the employee’s behalf.”

By the time authorities responded, the female suspect had left and Tomayo was in her place. “The officer somehow understood that Tomayo was under suspicion,” said the police representative. “It was a momentary mistaken identity, but the situation was clarified in under three minutes.”

A Starbucks spokesperson told Yahoo Lifestyle that when speaking to the police, the worker had immediately cleared Tamayo of wrongdoing. “The employee did not believe police were asking Tamayo to leave,” said the spokesperson. “It was a misunderstanding.”

According to Tomayo’s claim, sent to Yahoo Lifestyle by the police department, she was never interviewed or asked for identification. The claim states that officers “were unlawful and violated her rights under federal and California state laws.” Additionally, police “intended to intimidate and threaten,” stripping Tamayo of her civil rights “by discriminating against her on the basis of race, ethnicity, and/or national origin.”

Tomayo’s attorney Lori Rifkin, told Yahoo Lifestyle that officers acted on a vague description of a “Latino woman” who wasn’t welcome at Starbucks.

In addition to her claim against the San Pablo Police Department, Tomayo has filed a complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing — both are precursors to a lawsuit.

“The police believe their body camera footage exonerates them,” Rifkin told Yahoo Lifestyle. “But intimidating someone based on a description of their ethnicity appears to be racial profiling.”

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