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West Chester police were told a shoplifting suspect was white. They stopped a Black man

West Chester Police Chief: 'We made mistakes'
A shoplifting suspect had been described as a white man, but West Chester police stopped and interviewed the 60-year-old Black man on the left as a suspect. A different officer arrested the white man on the right who matched the description of the suspect and was charged in the case.
Posted at 9:21 AM, Feb 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 19:00:58-05

WEST CHESTER, Ohio — An internal investigation found two West Chester police officers violated department policy when they stopped and questioned a 60-year-old Black man while searching for a shoplifting suspect described as a white man in his 30s.

Police records show the incident happened Jan. 29, 2021, in a West Chester Meijer store.

In a call to 911, a Meijer loss prevention worker described a white suspect who was wearing a dark green/gray Carhartt coat with a red hoodie underneath. Eric Lindsay, the innocent Black shopper stopped by police, was wearing a puffy burnt orange coat with a scarf.

"I shouldn't have been stopped," Lindsay said. "Do I need to have been tased or cuffed to feel like I was done wrong? I don't think so."

Eric Lindsay
Eric Lindsay

Lindsay filed a complaint with the West Chester Police Department. The internal investigation report of the incident says Lindsay "alleges the officers profiled him and stopped him because of the color of his skin."

"Mr. Lindsay felt humiliated and embarrassed by the encounter," the report says.

One year later, Lindsay filed a lawsuit against Meijer, the West Chester Police Department and officers Tim Mintkenbaugh and Tanner Csendes — the two who stopped and 'interviewed' him in the store.

"We made mistakes in this situation," said Joel Herzog, West Chester Chief of Police. "We're not infallible."

The WCPO 9 I-Team requested, received and examined police records, including body camera video, audio recordings and additional records documenting the West Chester police response to Meijer's request for officers.

Herzog said it was Csendes' 10th day on the job. Csendes was a 'trainee' and Mintkenbaugh was his 'training officer' that day, according to Herzog.

How did it happen?

Herzog said the two officers knew the suspect was a white man when they entered the store.

A few minutes later, body camera video shows Csendes had concerns about a man in one of the grocery aisles. That man was Eric Lindsay.

"Is this him right here walking up to us?" Csendes said to Mintkenbaugh.

Csendes said he thought the man was wearing a Carhartt coat. The internal investigation report says Csendes later explained that since he believed the coat was tan, he assumed it was a Carhartt coat because tan is a popular Carhartt color.

"It doesn't look anything like him," Mintkenbaugh told Csendes.

Still, body camera video shows both officers moved toward Lindsay anyway.

You can watch the full, raw video via bodycam of the officers' response in the video below. NOTE: The only edits WCPO made were for profanity.

Csendes, a former loss prevention employee, then told Mintkenbaugh that the man had "mirrored" him and looked at him, which appeared to make Csendes suspicious.

"He felt in his experience in loss prevention, 'Hey, this guy's watching us also,'" Herzog said. "So, maybe this guy's involved."

According to the internal police investigation, Mintkenbaugh wrongly believed that a nearby Meijer employee worked in loss prevention and had helped Csendes identify Lindsay as a possible suspect, though Mintkenbaugh did not know who the employee was or if the suspect's description had changed.

West Chester Police Officer Tim Mintkenbaugh approaches a Black man, Eric Lindsay, for questioning in a shoplifting investigation even though the suspect was described as a white man wearing clothing of a different type and color.
West Chester Police Officer Tim Mintkenbaugh approaches a Black man, Eric Lindsay, for questioning in a shoplifting investigation even though the suspect was described as a white man wearing clothing of a different type and color.

"Hey, boss," Mintkenbaugh said to Lindsay. "Come talk to me."

The police internal investigation found at that point, a police dispatcher is heard on the body camera video telling officers the suspect is in a different part of the store near candles. Body camera video then shows Lindsay, who is not white.

Mintkenbaugh and Csendes continue moving toward Lindsay anyway.

"How are you doing?" Mintkenbaugh said.

"I was doing well until I got stopped," Lindsay said. "What's up?"

"LP (loss prevention) called and said that you were concealing some items in your jacket," Mintkenbaugh said.

Mintkenbaugh asked Lindsay if he had items concealed in his jacket.

"What did they say?" Lindsay asked the officers. "A Black man did it?"

Body camera video shows Csendes told Lindsay that Meijer loss prevention said the suspect was wearing a tan jacket even though police records show that was not true. Lindsay is seen in the body camera video getting angrier and louder.

"This isn't tan," Lindsay said to the officers. "This is orange as f***."

Mintkenbaugh continued questioning Lindsay.

"Do you have any items in your jacket?" Mintkenbaugh said to Lindsay.

"Hell yeah, I got items in my jacket," Lindsay said. "Items that I walked in here with behind you guys."

"Well, that's not what we're being told," Mintkenbaugh said on the body camera video.

Right after that exchange, you can hear the police dispatcher say the suspect is now near Valentine's Day cards.

Body camera video shows Lindsay continuing to curse the officers, demanding an apology.

Mintkenbaugh gives Lindsay his business card and tells him who to contact if he wants to file a complaint.

Two minutes later, a different officer arrested Tyler Brewer, a white man in the store who matched the description of the suspect.

A West Chester police officer arrests Tyler Brewer, the white shoplifting suspect who matched the description of the suspect in the case.
A West Chester police officer arrests Tyler Brewer, the white shoplifting suspect in the case.

Officers found Meijer items on Brewer and charged him with theft, according to police reports. Police cited Brewer and released him.

Butler County court records show Brewer failed to appear for a court hearing, and a judge issued a warrant for Brewer's arrest. He has not been arrested on the warrant, according to court records.

The police department's internal investigation found Mintkenbaugh and Csendes violated police department policy that prohibits unjustifiable stopping and questioning of citizens.

Chief Herzog said Mintkenbaugh was not being untruthful with Lindsay because Mintkenbaugh believed the description of the suspect had changed and that Lindsay was a suspect.

The investigation found that Csendes knew Lindsay was not the suspect once they got close enough to determine he was Black, but Csendes told internal police investigators he did not stop the questioning of Lindsay because he wasn't comfortable correcting Mintkenbaugh, his training officer.

Csendes violated department policy by failing to stop the interview, the investigation report says.

The internal investigation found the officers did not stop Lindsay because he's Black, saying Mintkenbaugh and Csendes were not close enough to see Lindsay's skin color when they started to approach him for questioning.

"What did you expect the force to do?" Lindsay said.

What did they see in the police video?

The I-Team asked Herzog and Lindsay to watch the same body camera video of the incident and describe what they see.

"I lost it," Lindsay told the I-Team of the initial exchange.

"These guys (Mintkenbaugh and Csendes) remained professional throughout this," Herzog said. "They didn't escalate as Mr. Lindsay. We don't know what aggravated him immediately, but the officers stayed calm, professional."

Lindsay said he saw disrespectful and clueless officers in the video.

"For someone to make a mistake like that, are they incompetent?" Lindsay said.

He said he was also concerned about his anger and loud cursing at the officers.

"It's nothing that I'm proud of," Lindsay said.

Lindsay said police in different communities have stopped and questioned him without cause for decades.

"When there are occasion after occasion after occasion after occasion after occasion of this thing happening, you reach a boiling point," Lindsay said. "I guess this was mine."

Lindsay said he needs help to deal with his anger.

"I know that I've reached the point where I need to talk with someone because it's gotten the best of me at this point," Lindsay said.

The West Chester Police Department gave officers Mintkenbaugh and Csendes administrative warnings for violating department policy and required them to get retrained on field interviews, according to police records.

"It was about as minimal of a contact as you can have with police," Herzog said. "It was just a simple walk-up, consensual encounter and that was it."

Lindsay's lawsuit refers to the same encounter as "illegal profiling and detention."

Attorney Fanon Rucker, who represents Lindsay in his lawsuit against West Chester police and Meijer, said Meijer should have stopped the questioning of Lindsay because employees knew he was not the suspect.

"Yeah, it was a big mistake," a Meijer manager told Lindsay on body camera video following the arrest of Brewer.

Meijer did not respond to a request for comment on the case.

Officer Mintkenbaugh apologized to Lindsay after Brewer was arrested.

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