CLAYTON, Mo. - The Clayton police chief met with Washington University administrators last week after 10 African-American students were falsely accused of leaving a local diner without paying for their meal.
According to our news partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, police made all of the students walk back to the restaurant with squad cars following them, even some of the students had receipts showing they paid for their food. Once they returned to the eatery, the manager told police the students were not the ones who left without paying.
The students were only identified as incoming freshmen. They were at the university as part of a summer program to prepare them for college life while working and learning in STEM fields.
The incident itself unfolded late Saturday, July 7 and into the early hours of Sunday, July 8.
University officials spoke with the students, who told they were walking south along Brentwood Boulevard to the Galleria MetroLink station around 12:30 a.m. when they were stopped by two Clayton police officers. The students said the officers told them they were suspects in a crime that just occurred at the IHOP.
Once they walked back to the restaurant and the manager there informed police they were not the individuals responsible, the students said police dismissed them without an apology.
Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy said he'd launched an internal review of the matter even before the university contacted. He also has offered to meet with the students sometime this week. The chief apologized that the students were inconvenienced.
Murphy said his department has received 45 approximately reports of customers leaving that particular IHOP without paying so far this year, adding that his officers were responding to a report of a crime.
Washington University released the following statement on Monday in support of 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."