SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- The $1 billion Arrowhead Credit Union is facing a lawsuit filed by local pastor after he was mistakenly arrested for check fraud.
Pastor Terry Elliott, who heads the Mt. Zion Baptist Church of San Bernardino, one of the area's prominent black congregations, was arrested Dec. 20, 2007, in a Stater Bros. grocery store after his rejected ATM card alerted Arrowhead's loss prevention department.
According to a story published in the San Bernardino Sun, the credit union mistakenly concluded that Elliott had deposited a stolen $6,700 check into his account, and Arrowhead employees working at the grocery branch kept Elliott at the site until police arrived.
Elliott was released from jail when police realized the stolen check in question was not related to his account. His lawsuit seeks monetary damages for false imprisonment, negligence, defamation and infliction of emotional distress. The suit also alleges negligence and discrimination.
"Arrowhead has habitually profiled minorities and overreached and has been particularly and routinely negligent with their facts, especially when it relates to minorities, to have them arrested under false pretenses," the lawsuit reads.
The day following the incident, Arrowhead President/CEO Larry Sharp reportedly sent Elliott a letter of apology with a $3,000 donation to Elliott's church. The pastor accepted the donation but filed a lawsuit anyway.
Lisa Browning, Arrowhead's public relations coordinator, said the credit union has no comment on the case, citing current litigation.
Elliott is not only a prominent pastor of a large congregation, he also is chairman of the San Bernardino Human Relations Commission, president of the California Bible State Baptist Convention, president of the local chapter of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network and a member of the San Bernardino Sun editorial board. He is also credited with bringing the Rev. Jesse Jackson to the area in March 2007 to speak on crime and urban decay.
The original court date was set for May 2 in San Bernardino County Superior Court, with the credit union's countermotion scheduled to be heard May 1. According to San Bernardino County Superior Court records, Arrowhead's legal representatives had indicated they would file a motion to strike portions of the civil complaint, as well as file a demurrer motion, which contests the legal sufficiency of the complaint.
Calls to Arrowhead's attorneys, the Los Angeles-based Anderson, McPharlin & Conners, and Pastor Elliott were not returned.