A black man arrived at the entrance to the building where he lives in St. Louis late Friday night only to find himself blocked by a white neighbor who demanded proof he lived there.
“Please move, ma’am,” the man, D’Arreion Toles, says in a video he recorded of the encounter, which shows the woman with her dog on a leash standing in the doorway at the condominium complex, the Elder Shirt Lofts.
“I can,” she responds. “Do you live here?”
“I’ve already answered that question,” Toles, 24, replies as he continues to try to get in. “Excuse me.”
But the woman, Hilary Brooke Mueller, refused to move as she continued to ask Toles what unit he lived in and to see his key fob. When he declined to tell her, she remained in his path.
“If you want to come into my building — ” she begins to say in the video.
“It’s not your building, you’re not the owner,” Toles says, getting past her. “Excuse me.”
Toles posted videos of the episode on his Facebook page Saturday and they quickly spread on social media, where the then-unidentified woman was derisively referred to as “Apartment Patty.”
Over the weekend, Mueller’s employer, Tribeca-STL, which manages real estate elsewhere in the city, said in a statement on its website that it had reviewed the video and fired her. Tribeca does not own the building where Toles and Mueller live.
“The Tribeca-STL family is a minority-owned company that consists of employees and residents from many racial backgrounds,” officials with the company, an apartment complex in St. Louis, said. “We are proud of this fact and do not and never will stand for racism or racial profiling at our company.”
Toles said Sunday that about 30 minutes after he got into his unit, a police officer knocked on his door and told him that Mueller felt “uncomfortable” about Toles being there. He said he told the officer that he was renting the unit and that he had shown Mueller his key fob.
Mueller could not be reached to comment. The Metropolitan Police Department in St. Louis said in an email Monday that it responded to a 911 call that “was made because the caller did not know if the male subject was a tenant.”
It was the latest known instance of a white person caught on video confronting — and sometimes calling the police on — a black person performing everyday activities, such as baby-sitting, eating lunch or going to the pool.
In a Brooklyn deli last week, a white woman called police after claiming that a young black boy touched her behind. (He had not.) In July, a black state lawmaker in Oregon said she was reported to police as a “suspicious person” while talking to constituents in a suburban neighborhood.
In an interview Sunday, Toles said he pulled out his phone to record the encounter “because I didn’t feel safe in the situation.”
He added: “At the end of the day, why would she call the police on me? I just walked in and went to my house.”
He said he was concerned that the situation would end up similar to what happened in Dallas last month when a black man was killed in his apartment after a white off-duty police officer entered, claiming she thought it was her unit.
“It’s kind of hitting me again, thinking about the whole thing,” he said of his encounter. “It’s pretty sad.”
He said it made him feel “like you can’t be who you are in America.”
In one of the videos, Toles is in an elevator and Mueller follows him. He says, “So now you’re going to follow me?”
“I am,” she replies.
In another video, she trails him in a hallway, saying she wants to introduce herself because he is a neighbor.
“I do not want to speak with you,” he says. “Please stop following me. I’m going to call the cops for harassment. That’s my next step.”
The last video shows Mueller outside his unit, with Toles standing in the doorway. “You just followed me all the way to my door,” he says. “And you see my keys in the door.”
“As a record I just want to say, ‘Hi, what is your name?’ ” she begins to say before Toles cuts her off.
“Ma’am — you just — no. Have a good night, ma’am,” he says. “Don’t ever do that again.”
Brandon Mueller, Hilary Brooke Mueller’s estranged husband, said in an interview Sunday that he was shocked to learn about the encounter after he got messages and notifications on Facebook.
On Facebook, Brandon Mueller, who has a black father and white mother, posted a video in which he said he was disappointed about what happened. He said he had been separated from Hilary Brooke Mueller for more than a year and had not lived in the Elder Shirt Lofts building for just as long.
He said that he did not condone Hilary Brooke Mueller’s actions and that he had sent a Facebook message to Toles to show support. Brandon Mueller said Toles handled the situation in an “exceptional manner.”
Toles, who runs a marketing consulting company, urged people not to bother Hilary Brooke Mueller.
“Some people think I should have went after her more,” he said. “I’m not going to go after her. My whole purpose is to turn this negative into a positive.”