SAN FRANCISCO - Three friends were detained for hours by police at a high-end department store in San Francisco Wednesday afternoon.
They've all been cleared of any wrongdoing, and are now accusing police of racial profiling. The men are planning on filing a lawsuit. They are being represented by civil rights attorney Adante Pointer.
Police say their response was appropriate.
The incident happened at Saks Fifth Avenue on Union Square.
The men, African Americans in their 20s from Oakland, say they were shopping inside the store when the police suddenly showed up with their guns drawn.
They described their experience as scary, embarrassing and humiliating.
They shared with KTVU cell phone video of the incident inside the Saks Fifth Avenue store on Post Street.
Greg Peirson is seen handcuffed sitting on the ground.
Police say he matched the description provided by a caller who reported a man brandishing a firearm inside the store.
Peirson says he and his friends were in the store for a half-hour or less when officers came up behind them with guns drawn.
"'Hey you three, get the f--- down,'" an officer said to them, according to Peirson.
"We turned around surprised," Peirson said.
He says he's a regular customer at the store and employees recognize him. He questions whether officers verified the report with workers.
"That's a scary thing to have my life in somebody else's hands like that, especially being innocent," he said.
The three men say they complied and were detained for more than two hours even though no weapons were found.
"Very scared, down on the ground. I was listening to everything they said just like I was supposed to 'cause I didn't want them to shoot me," said Michael Melson, Peirson's friend.
"It was racial profiling to me from what I see," said Peirson.
A San Francisco police spokesman says the officers "acted according to policy when responding to a report of a person brandishing a firearm."
The three men contend that police would have responded differently had they not been Black.
"They jumped to the conclusion that it's three Black men upstairs. They have a gun," says Peirson.
No weapons were found.
Officers cited a man who claimed in the call to police that there was an armed man in the store.
Police say he acted aggressively when officers were talking to the three friends.
The man was cited for obstructing a police investigation and was released.
Peirson says the police treated him and his friends more aggressively than they did the white man who made the report.
"I would like to see the cops be a little more lenient. Take a little more time. Give us a little bit benefit of the doubt sometimes," said Peirson.
Police declined to speak on camera but did say officers activated their body cameras and that the men can file a complaint with the Department of Police Accountability.