#ShoppingWhileBlackandPregnant: Police accuse mom of hiding school supplies under her shirt

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A pregnant mother out shopping for school supplies at Staples in North Carolina, is upset after a police officer accused her of stealing merchandise because of the belly bulge under her shirt.

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Sherell Bates is embarrassed and outraged by the confrontation with a Pineville, North Carolina police officer in the checkout line at a Staples store. Bates said she was picking up back-to-school supplies when an officer approached her and assumed that she was shoplifting and stuffing stolen items from the store down her shirt.

“Mid-transaction, a police officer approached me and insisted he wanted to speak with me,” Bates said, WSBTV reports. “He asked what was under my shirt.”

Bates, who is in her last trimester, is pregnant with twins.

“Initially, I thought he was joking, so my response was, ‘Twins,’” Bates said. “I’m 34 weeks with twins. I’m having a boy and a girl.”

But the officer wasn’t commenting her on her upcoming birth. They suspected Bates was been “concealing merchandise” and the officer asked her a second time about what was under her shirt.

“At that point, to avoid him asking me again, I actually lifted my shirt just a little bit, just to expose my belly, so he could see that I’m just a regular pregnant person buying school supplies,” Bates said.

“Being pregnant is already high-risk, and having to deal with that, just additional stress that I don’t need,” Bates said.

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Apparently a store manager had asked the police officer to question Bates after suspecting her of stealing.

“When I confronted her about what happened, she admitted that, ‘In the past, we’ve had a lot of people putting school supplies or merchandise in their clothes and hiding, so I asked the officer to reach out to you,’” Bates said.

Staples issued the following limp statement:

“Yesterday at our Pineville location, while a customer was shopping, a manager mistakenly thought they were possibly shoplifting and asked a police officer that happened to be in the store to talk with the customer.

“After a quick conversation, the issue was resolved, the manager apologized to the customer and refunded their transaction due to the inconvenience. At Staples, we want all customers to feel welcome in our store, and work with our store associates to try and foster an inclusive culture. As an organization, we would like to apologize to the customer if that was not the case in this instance.”

Bates is reportedly considering whether to take legal action.

We guess we can now add the hashtag #ShoppingWhileBlackandPregnant to social media.