ST. LOUIS – Washington University released a statement after 10 students were accused of leaving IHOP without paying on July 7.
An email among leadership at Washington University said the students were walking along Brentwood Boulevard from the IHOP on Clayton Road to the Galleria MetroLink station when two Clayton police officers approached them and told them they were suspects in a crime that just occurred at IHOP where a group of customers left without paying their bill. Several of the students shared their receipts to show that they had paid.
"However, our students were still forcefully told that they were suspects and had to walk the three blocks back along Brentwood Blvd, with now six police cars in tow to make sure they complied – a humiliating experience. When they arrived at the restaurant the manager quickly confirmed they were not suspects. The officers dismissed them without any apology," an email among Washington University administrators said.
The students are on campus this summer for the arts and sciences freshman summer academic program.
Clayton police told 5 On Your Side they are looking into the incident. They also released the following statement:
We are so sorry this was the start for these newest Washington University in St. Louis 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. Chief Murphy has reached out to the university within hours of hearing about this to try to meet with these students to both hear what they have to say, but also to assure them (and their families who may be distant) that Clayton and Washington University have a long and proud tradition of safety and support for all students.
This particular restaurant, IHOP, has had 45 “dine and dash” calls since January. It is sad and unfortunate that so many people treat this business this way. The additional cost of this kind of criminal activity is that it leaves the community open to collateral damage such as this incident. Our department has and will continue to study what could have been done better in this and in all incidents where we have complaints. Even without any apparent policy or legal violations, we look for ways to improve and make our officers even more effective in positive interactions.
Outside of learning how to be better, we are most concerned at this point with restoring the confidence of these newest Clayton residents that they are safe and welcome in Clayton. We look forward to meeting with them soon.
STATEMENT FROM IHOP
"I can confirm that the restaurant did report that a group walked out on their bill that evening, which is also captured on surveillance video.
The restaurant management team immediately informed officers that this group of young men were not the ones involved in the incident. For 60 years, IHOP has been a welcoming and safe place for those in our communities and we continue to strive to be a place where people feel comfortable."
In a tweet, Washington University Provost Holden Thorp said he is " embarrassed to be a resident of Clayton."
STATEMENT FROM WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
"We are deeply concerned and disappointed that anyone – certainly any of our students – would experience what transpired on July 7. The fact that these 10 students, all of whom are African American, were scared and humiliated is unacceptable to us. We have shared that sentiment directly with the City of Clayton and have had an opportunity to meet with city leaders to reiterate our concerns. Conversations continue and we are hopeful that our students will hear directly from the City of Clayton with both an explanation and an apology.
Like all of our Washington University students, the incoming first-year students who were involved in this incident are truly exceptional. They were recruited from all over the United States and, as high school students, worked tremendously hard with an eye toward attending an institution like ours. We, and many of our peer institutions, competed head-to-head to recruit them. The community in which they would learn, live, socialize and engage was a very important factor in deciding which school they would attend. 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. It is extremely disappointing that they have been so seriously let down, even before the official start of their first semester.
Washington University and the City of Clayton, one of the jurisdictions we call home, have a long-standing, positive working relationship. We hope and would expect that a situation like this would be avoided in the future."