Oakland, CA — Kenya Wheeler, an African American man from California, says he was racially profiled by three security guards who confronted him — one even drew a weapon at him — because he was taking photos while walking home. Kenya believes he was treated that way because of his race.
Kenya posted what happened on Facebook, along with a video he took of the incident. In the video, the security guards can be heard asking “Why do you [take] pictures the car?”
“I took pictures of the bike racks,” Wheeler answered.
The security guards did not believe Wheeler and accused him of “casing vehicles” instead. Wheeler was then forced to wait for the police while detained. He said he was shocked when he saw one of the guards threatened him with a firearm even though he was unarmed and he only had his smartphone and umbrella with him.
Given that the guard had pulled a weapon, Wheeler said he “did not feel safe in exercising my rights to leave and stayed even though I felt it was a false detention as these were not peace officers and I had committed no crime.”
Wheeler, who is the head of Oakland Bicyclist and Pedestrian Commission, said he was walking home from yoga class when he noticed the bike racks that were adorned with colorful yarn. He stopped to take some photos of it to share with his colleagues at the commission, but then he was suddenly stopped by the security guards.
After being held for 20 minutes, he was free to go home after the police came and resolved the incident “professionally.” Still, he was disappointed with the incident which he believed happened because of his race.
“This is racial profiling, and this is a racial act,” he told local station ABC 7. “The only reason that I’m being treated this way is because I’m Black.”
Meanwhile, Peter Jakel, a spokesperson from the PR firm that represents the building where the security guards worked, said they were also upset about the incident and they have since changed their security providers.
“We share the concerns Mr. Wheeler expressed as he was on a public sidewalk and should not have been confronted at all,” said Jakel.
Moreover, Wheeler said the building manager apologized to him and said that there have been recent break-ins in the area which may be the reason the guards stepped up their security. He hopes his experience could serves as a lesson about the importance of inclusion and diversity.
“What I do know is that all of us as a community need to come together to ensure what happened to me does not happens to others in Oakland or elsewhere in our region,” he said.