‘Petrifying’: Black man says he was racially profiled by Needham police

NEEDHAM, MASS. (WHDH) - A Black man says he was racially profiled and wrongly accused of shoplifting by Needham police, and says the department needs to reform.

Marvin Henry said he bought a bag of cough drops and a can of tea at a CVS in Needham in January, and after he left the store police slammed him against the hood of his car and handcuffed him for 40 minutes.

“It was petrifying. I was internally very nervous, very shaken,” Henry recalled. “They treated me like a full-fledged criminal when I was totally innocent of anything.”

Henry said the officers did not explain why they had handcuffed him for more than a half-hour, and when they revealed the accusation he offered to show his receipt. Henry’s attorney, Lauren Sampson, said the department needs to explain why Henry was detained.

“Mr. Henry was never charged, never received any kind of summons… nothing to ever indicate his case was actually ongoing,” Sampson said. “So we put it to the police department to justify his treatment on that day.”

A spokeswoman for the town of Needham says an investigation is underway.

“Given current tensions and heightened awareness around issues of race and discrimination and policing, it is particularly imperative that we fully understand the facts before coming to any conclusions,” she said in a statement. “The town will conduct a thorough investigation into this matter and asks that the community withhold judgement until that investigation is complete.”

Henry and his attorney say the investigation will prove their claims and while they have not yet filed a lawsuit, they are demanding an apology from the police department, compensation, and meaningful reform to department training.

“We of course want justice for Mr. Henry, and we also want justice for communities of color throughout Needham,” Sampson said.

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