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City of Clayton apologizes to 10 black Wash U students accused of leaving restaurant without paying

Washington University's Brookings Hall
Washington University

Updated at 2:20 p.m. on July 17 with information on the city's apology. Updated on July 16 at 4:15 p.m. with comment from Clayton Police Chief  – Washington University asked the city of Clayton to apologize to 10 black incoming freshmen for an incident on July 7, and the city has complied.

The city posted a statement including the apology on its website.

The statement reads, in part:

"We are so sorry this was the start for these newest Washington University Bears. For more than one hundred years we have welcomed university students from around the world to be a part of our community. While it is our duty to respond when businesses call for help, we aim to do this in a way that is as respectful and safe for all concerned as we can be." 

Read: City of Clayton Statement Regarding Washington University Students

According to an internal Wash U email obtained by St. Louis Public Radio, the students were walking from the IHOP on Clayton Road to the Galleria Metrolink Station on July 7 when Clayton police pulled up. The officers said the students were suspected of leaving the restaurant without paying for their meals.

Several students showed their receipts from the IHOP, but all were instructed to walk three blocks back to the restaurant, followed by six police cars. The IHOP manager confirmed that the students were not the suspects, and they were immediately released.

“The fact that these 10 students, all of whom are African-American, were scared and humiliated is unacceptable to us,” said Jill Friedman, vice chancellor of public affairs for Wash U. “Conversations continue, and we are hopeful that our students will hear directly from the City of Clayton with both an explanation and an apology.”

The students were a part of the Wash U Arts & Sciences First-Year Summer Academic Program. The program aims to acclimate students to college life during the summer. Students take a variety of courses in the arts and sciences.

“The community in which they would learn, live, socialize and engage was a very important factor in deciding which school they would attend,” Friedman said. “We won their confidence, and they chose to join our student body because they believed they would have an exceptional experience at Washington University and here in St. Louis.”

Wash U Provost Holden Thorp tweeted his reaction Monday afternoon:

Clayton Police Chief Kevin R. Murphy did not dispute the students' account of events in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio Monday afternoon. He said the department will conduct an internal review about the incident.

“We were already on a track to do an internal review on this because we were made aware of it a couple of days before Washington University contacted us,” Murphy said.

In the meantime, he has offered to meet with the students to discuss what happened.

“The university asked us not to speak to the kids because they were working on a final exam,” Murphy said. “They asked if we could wait to until they come back for the beginning of fall session next month.

In April, Jason Wilson, a candidate for the Clayton Public School District school board, gained attention after coming forward about being stopped by the Clayton police while canvassing for his campaign — twice.Wilson went on to win the election. 

In early May, three young black men were shopping at Nordstrom Rack in Brentwood, near the IHOP.  Employees accused the friends of stealing. They had receipts to prove they paid for items. 

Follow Chad on Twitter @iamcdavis

Correction: Initial information provided to St. Louis Public Radio indicated the incident in question took place in the early hours of July 8.  We have corrected this article to reflect the correct date is July 7, per the Clayton Police Department.

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.