Al Stults Jr. swears that when he told a Safeway deli clerk that he likes large breasts, he was talking about chicken breasts -- not anything attached to her. Which explains why he's so upset about receiving a trespassing notice from the Lakewood Police Department banning him from the supermarket for one year for his remarks.
According to Stults, 62, he visited a Safeway branch on West Colfax in early August. He was in the company of a female companion, but she wasn't with him when he headed to the deli counter to order some chicken breasts. He describes the clerk who waited on him as a "heavy-set woman," and when he pointed at the breasts and said, "I like the large ones," he recalls her chuckling.
The next week, Stults says, he returned to the store to order more chicken breasts -- but when the clerk who helped him the week before saw him coming, she walked away, leaving another woman to help him -- one who, in his opinion, was extremely surly.
After completing the transaction, Stults says he decided to complain about how rudely he'd just been treated. But when he spoke with the assistant store manager, she immediately put him on the defensive.
"She was so, so mad," he maintains. "She said, 'The last time you were here, you giggled about this woman's large breasts.' And I said, 'Oh, baloney.' And then she opened up her flip phone and called the police, and I listened to her make up this whole story about me cussing and threatening her."
Safeway's side of the story? Kris Staaf, the company's spokeswoman in Denver, declines to comment. "We don't discuss personnel issues," she says. "And from what I gathered from our security folks, this is more of a police matter."
It quickly became one. Even though Stults insists that he used no profanities when speaking with the assistant store manager, her call to the police convinced him "it was exit time. I thought, I could be jailed over this."
Rather than heading to his vehicle, Stults says he left the store on foot. But before he could get too far, a Lakewood Police car zoomed up, lights flashing, just as he stepped off a sidewalk. He claims that the officer nearly hit him.
As Stults remembers it, the officer asked for his drivers license and then returned to her car to check for prior offenses; he points out that his record is clean with the exception of minor traffic tickets. A second officer who also arrived on the scene subsequently handed him a trespassing notice. He recalls being told, "'Here you are, sir. You cannot go on that property for a year from this date. If you're on the property, you'll be charged with trespassing and maybe other criminal charges.'"
This situation frustrates Stults to no end. "It's completely illegal," he says. "They totally side-stepped the legal system."
That's not the way Lakewood Police spokesman Steve Davis sees it.
"Mr. Stults faces absolutely no criminal charges," Davis says. "We issued him a trespassing notice, which is a civil type of thing. When a business would rather someone not come into their place of business, we can issue these notices that ask a person not to come back for a period of one year -- and if they do, then they can be charged with trespassing."
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In Stults's opinion, this notice gives him no chance to present his side of the story -- and, as Davis acknowledges, "our officers weren't there to hear his remarks. We don't know how he said what he said to them, or what his tone was. We're going by what we heard, which is that he made the remark about an employee's breasts." For instance, the police report includes the assertion by the assistant store manager that Stults called her a "bitch" -- something he specifically denies.
Davis says trespassing notices like the one given to Stults "are used a lot of times in shoplifting situations, or when somebody creates some type of scene in a store." But, he reiterates, "there is no court date -- so there's no need or opportunity for him to present his side of things to anyone, because there's no criminal procedure."
Still, Stults, a Navy veteran who describes himself as a Christian, feels extraordinarily aggrieved, going off on long rants about fascism and how "a lot of people lying in marble orchards died to preserve our rights" -- the very rights he feels have been snatched away from him because of what he sees as a terrible misunderstanding.
Update, August 25: Based on a conversation with Stults this morning, some minor changes have been made in the original text of this item. He says a second officer who arrived on the scene actually handed him the trespassing notice, not the female officer who he says put him in grave danger when she screeched to a halt in front of him. He also says he used the term "marble orchards," not "marble fields," in the quote directly above. These passages have been changed to reflect this information. Finally, he disagrees with my characterization of his comments about fascism as "long rants." He prefers to think of them as "opinions" about the side-stepping of the legal system.