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‘Banking while Black’: Woman sues Chase Bank over racial discrimination

DENVER (KDVR) — A Colorado woman is suing one of the largest banks in the country, claiming racial discrimination.

At 61 years old, Jeanetta Vaughn says she was racially profiled at a branch in Aurora, resulting in the manager calling the police on her for “banking while Black” — basically using police as intimidation.

She shared her side of the story with FOX31.

A trip for checks ends with police encounter

It was June 9, 2022, when two Aurora Police officers were called to a Chase Bank branch on Buckley Road for a trespassing call. Body camera video captures the incident.

The incident started when Vaughn walked into the branch that morning to get checks from a teller. She’s seen in a bank surveillance video walking in.

Vaughn told FOX31 she sat in a chair to unlock her bank card, which she keeps locked for security reasons as a former government employee. Then she was approached by the bank manager, who asked if she needed anything.

“I told her, ‘No, I’m unlocking my card, and then I’m going to go up and do my business,’” she said.

According to the complaint, the manager then said, “You don’t need to be rude.”

“She says, ‘You’re not welcome here. I’m the branch manager, and you’re not welcome here,’” Vaughn said. “And I said, ‘What do you mean? My money is here, my account is here.’ And she says, ‘You’re not welcome here, and I’m going to call the police.’”

‘Very rude,’ manager claims in 911 call

That manager went into the back and dialed 911, saying Vaughn was trespassing. Attorneys provided FOX31 with the call.

On the 911 call, the manager is heard saying: “She told me to go away, that when she was ready she would come up, and I don’t need to be giving her the 411. Very rude.”

That’s when officers arrived.

The branch manager is heard on body camera video as she spoke with police: “All she had to do was let me know what she was doing and not with the snarky attitude and threatening me with video.”

Vaughn said she never made snarky comments or recorded anyone in the 60-second interaction.

On the body camera video, officers can be heard telling the manager that there were no signs posted to prohibit recording, that Vaughn didn’t appear aggressive and that someone’s rudeness isn’t a law enforcement matter.

Still, Vaughn said she was overwhelmed with shock and fear.

“All I could see was myself being handcuffed, dragged out, shot or something,” she said.

Lawsuit: 4 discrimination complaints at Chase Bank branch

Vaughn said she waited for her husband and left, but she is now filing this lawsuit against the manager and JPMorgan Chase.

“This is something that has to stop. Whether it’s at a banking institution or a grocery store, movie theaters, no matter where you are — I have a right to be there,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn was never charged with trespassing.

The complaint also alleges that since September 2021, four racial discrimination complaints have been made at the same location on Buckley Road.

“There is a reason our country witnessed actions like the Woolworth sit-ins during the civil rights era,” said Iris Halpern, Vaughn’s attorney with the Rathod Mohamedbhai firm. “True equality requires the same access to goods and services for everyone. That is why we have laws in this country that protect against racial discrimination in the restaurant, the movie theater, the gym and the bank. Police and the power they wield should not be exploited as a means to exclude people of color from fully participating in society as each and every one of us has the inalienable right to do.”

FOX31 reached out to JPMorgan Chase for comment about those allegations and the incident involving Vaughn. A spokesperson briefly stated, “We disagree with the allegation. That’s the only comment we have.”

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