WILLIAMSTON, N.C — A White hotel employee called the police on a guest, a Black woman and her children, who were using the hotel’s swimming pool over the weekend.
Missy Williams-Wright, her son, 11, and daughter, 7, were staying at the Hampton Inn in Williamston, North Carolina, when a hotel employee called the police to report a trespassing, Williamston Police said in a statement on Monday.
Williams-Wright tells CNN she was in town from Raleigh on business, and that she believes she was racially discriminated against because of the color of her skin.
“Hilton has zero tolerance for racism or discrimination of any kind,” a company spokesperson told CNN on Tuesday. “Through our extensive Diversity & Inclusion training program, we have made diversity and unconscious bias training mandatory for Team Members at all properties and corporate offices globally.”
The Hampton Inn employee in question is no longer with the hotel, but CNN has been unable to confirm whether she was terminated or resigned.
“Up until today, our normal process has been to involve law enforcement when we were unable to confirm if an individual is a guest of the hotel, Vimal Kolappa, CEO, Washington Hospitality, LLC and Owner, Hampton Inn by Hilton Williamston said in a statement to CNN Wednesday.
“We now understand this process may have unnecessarily escalated this situation. We are truly sorry for the impact that this experience had on our guest and her family. We are making every effort to contact the guest directly, so that we can continue to listen to her experience, offer our apologies, and make this situation right.”
Kolappa said the hotel will revisit their practices and only call law enforcement in the event of illegal activity or a threat to employees or guests.
“We will ensure that our employees are trained to be able to clearly identify and de-escalate these situations,” he said in a statement.
The incident between Williams-Wright, the Hampton Inn and Williamston police is one of the latest examples of calling the police on Black people, amplified by an atmosphere of racial tension following George Floyd’s killing — an unarmed black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis in May.
‘What did I do wrong?’
Hampton Inn staff told two responding officers that during hourly inspections of the hotel they had spotted two unattended children swimming in the pool, and that Williams-Wright was seen in her car in the hotel parking lot, according to the police statement.
Williams-Wright said she was charging her phone and speaking with her mother but had sight of her children in the pool.
Hotel staff told police they asked Williams-Wright to leave the premises while they called the authorities, the police statement read.
When officers arrived and approached Williams-Wright, they asked whether she was a hotel guest and could provide her name and room number. According to the police report, she refused, and instead showed them a key card providing access to the hotel and her room.
Officers continued to insist on seeing some form of identification, but Williams-Wright refused.
Fearing the unfolding situation, she told CNN she started recording live on Facebook. “With everything going on right now, it (the video) was for my protection,” she said.
Right at the beginning of an almost 10-minute long video, the police officers and the White hotel employee, who has not been identified, can be heard asking Williams-Wright for “proof” that she had a room at the Hampton Inn.
“OK this is my proof,” she said showing her room key. “Why do I have to tell you what room I’m in? What did I do wrong?”
Williams-Wright said that the hotel employee had not asked anyone else previously at the pool for proof that they were guests.
“So, because I am the only Black person here in this pool, they (want to) question me,” Williams-Wright says. “But there were two Caucasian people sitting right over there and she said nothing to them.”
In the video, no one else can be seen in the pool area besides Williams-Wright, her children, the hotel employee and two officers.
Officers attempted to verify her identity through the registration linked to her car’s license plates.
“Once I proved I had a room, that was for you to walk away,” Williams-Wright says. “You are degrading me like this in front of my kids. They trying to enjoy themselves in the pool.”
Ultimately, officers were able to match the car’s registration with Williams-Wright and verify that she was a guest at the hotel and no further action was taken.
The Williamston Police Department said in a statement, “there has been an outcry of public concern over this call for service and how it was handled.”
The department said they “take the complaint process very seriously” and is conducting an internal investigation around their response to the call.
‘We can move forward’
Williams-Wright said she spoke with the general manager of the Hampton Inn but said she was disappointed and felt that her concerns regarding discrimination were not properly addressed.
The Williamston Hampton Inn is a franchised property, independently owned and operated, according to a Hilton spokesperson. Hilton Worldwide is the parent company to the Hampton Inn brand.
“This is not the Hilton hospitality that our guests expect when they visit one of our properties, and we will be addressing this with ownership immediately,” the spokesperson said.
On Monday, Hilton issued the following statement on Twitter:
Williams-Wright and her children stayed at the Hampton Inn through the weekend as she originally planned because she said she didn’t want her kids to leave the hotel with the memory of police officers and hotel staff insinuating that they had done anything wrong.
“I was uncomfortable,” Williams-Wright said. “But I wanted to show my kids that even though we experienced this, we can move forward.”
As an activist who works closely with police in her community, Williams-Wright said she was disappointed in the behavior of the officers who answered the former hotel employee’s call. She said she’d like for police officers to undergo more diversity and sensitivity training.