Rite Aid sued by Brooklyn woman over false shoplifting arrest
A Brookyn woman is suing Rite Aid and the city for branding her a shoplifter when a previously purchased item inexplicably activated the pharmacy’s exit gate alarm.
Leah Fishman, 30, said that all her pleas — that store staff or detectives review security cameras, look up payment records or allow her to fetch the old receipt — fell on deaf ears.
“It was awful,” she said of the humiliating arrest one year ago. “It was really, really public and it lasted for hours.”
Fishman, a gilder and painter, recalled making a quick trip to the neighborhood pharmacy a few blocks from her Greenpoint home. She bought some medicine and tried to leave.
But the exit gate beeped and security found in her bag a container of dietary supplements she had purchased a few weeks earlier for about $20, said her lawyer, Jeffrey Rothman.
Store workers refused to verify her claim and instead called the cops.
“When the police came, I was relieved,” Fishman said — but that feeling quickly changed.
“They didn’t listen to a thing she said,” Rothman said of the two officers and two detectives who responded. “It’s though they were a private company working for Rite Aid.”
Appeals to prove her innocence were ignored, and Fishman started crying, according to the lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
“Oh look, she has tears. It won’t help you; you’re still going to jail,” court papers quote a detective as saying.
The put-downs and mocking continued after she was handcuffed and taken to the precinct stationhouse, where she could hear other officers calling her a thief, Fishman said.
“Police behavior was not only irresponsible, it was downright cruel,” said Rothman, who argued that cops should have engaged in “some minimal investigatory activity.”
The ordeal ended when Fishman’s roommate came to the stationhouse with the receipt for the allegedly stolen item. Fishman was let go without charges some three hours after the arrest.
Her suit is asking for unspecified damages.
Rite Aid and the city declined to comment because they have yet to receive the complaint.
Fishman said the Friday afternoon nightmare could have ended up worse.
“If it wasn’t for that minor thing, me not throwing out the receipt,” she said, “I would have been in Central Booking for the weekend.”