Darius Crosby certainly doesn’t look like a homeless guy. He doesn’t walk Modesto’s streets carrying a backpack or pushing a “borrowed” grocery cart.
He’s clean, well-dressed and sometimes wears a necktie. That stated, the reason the 57-year-old African-American doesn’t look like a homeless guy is because, well, he’s not.
To the contrary, he has a home and family. He works for a property management company when he isn’t in the pulpit as pastor of Modesto’s Greater Glory Community Church. And he’s been involved for more than two decades working to better race relations in Modesto, including as a member of the Modesto Police Clergy Council. Among the topics police and clergy frequently discuss is racial profiling.
So you can understand why he is frustrated and puzzled by what happened to him on a March afternoon in a northeast Modesto shopping center parking lot.
“I’d pulled over and had lunch at McDonald’s,” Crosby said. “I answered some calls, went to the Dollar Store, Save Mart and CVS and then came back to the car. I sat in it filling out some paperwork.”
He’d lowered the driver’s side window of his van and left the slider door ajar to take advantage of the breeze.
“A security guard walked up and peered through the crack in the (slider) and said, ‘You can’t park here,’ ” Crosby said. “He was looking all around inside the van. He said, ‘We have a problem with homeless here.’ ”
Crosby said he replied, “ ‘Do I look like I’m homeless?’ I pointed to my property management name tag and said, ‘This is who I am.’ I wasn’t sleeping. He didn’t didn’t see any pillows or blankets. He pointed to his security guard badge and said, ‘And this is who I am.’ ”
But Crosby really doesn’t believe it was about homelessness.
“It’s about how I was treated,” he said. “He profiled me. They have video. They can check it.”
Modesto police were handling an incident across the parking lot at the same time, Crosby said, and he thinks their presence emboldened the white security guard to be more aggressive.
Crosby returned to one of the stores to talk to the manager about the treatment, and he said as they talked, the guard inserted himself into the conversation.
“I scooted over a few feet, and the manager did the same,” Crosby said. “(The guard) said he was quite happy to do what he did.”
Later, Crosby called the shopping center manager, Margaret Davis, who told him she would look into it and did. The guard works for a security firm based in Sacramento, Davis told me.
“I think it was all just a misunderstanding,” she told me, adding that she told the guard he shouldn’t have come on so strong. The guard – who didn’t return my call – told her Crosby had parked there for five hours and also said he approached Crosby and merely asked if he were OK. Not so on either account, Crosby said. He said he parked near another white vehicle that was still there when he left, but it doesn’t matter really how long he was there.
Crosby said he found it just as disturbing that Davis never got back to him to discuss the situation. Did the guard get a talking to about his van-side manner? Updated training on how to approach people respectfully?
Police Chief Galen Carroll knows Crosby well enough to know he doesn’t overreact and in most cases is a facilitator when similar situations involve Modesto police and minorities. The reason for the relationship between law enforcement and the Clergy Council is to have the kind of open dialogue that creates better understanding.
“It adds to his frustration that everyone blew him off,” Carroll said. “Darius doesn’t look homeless – not that it’s OK to be rude to someone who is. If you just have that conversation – explain where you’re coming from and try to at least understand how someone will feel ... .”
That didn’t happen, which is why Crosby spoke out about it at last week’s City Council meeting.
“I’ve stood there many times for other people,” Crosby said. “It struck me that this is the first time I’d done it for myself. But it really isn’t. It is for other people. Staying silent wouldn’t have helped anyone.”